Long Durational Natural Phenomenon
Existence of Lophelia Pertusa Coral
Duration: Up to 40,000 years
Lophelia pertusa is a cold-water coral which grows in the deep waters throughout the North Atlantic ocean, as well as parts of the Caribbean Sea and Alboran Sea. L. pertusa reefs are home to a diverse community, however the species is extremely slow growing and may be harmed by destructive fishing practices, or oil exploration and extraction.
As a coral, it represents a colonial organism, which consists of many individuals. New polyps live and build upon the calcium carbonate skeletal remains of previous generations. Living coral ranges in color from white to orange-red. Unlike most tropical corals, the polyps are not interconnected by living tissue. Radiocarbon dating indicates that some Lophelia reefs in the waters off North Carolina may be 40,000 years old, with individual living coral bushes as much as 1,000 years old.
Polyps at the end of branches feed by extending their tentacles and straining plankton from the seawater. The spring bloom of phytoplankton and subsequent zooplankton blooms, provide the main source of nutrient input to the deep sea. This rain of dead plankton is visible on photographs of the seabed and stimulates a seasonal cycle of growth and reproduction in Lophelia. This cycle is recorded in patterns of growth, and can be studied to investigate climatic variation in the recent past.
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