Tag: marine life

Scientists Uncover Thriving Coral Reef Hiding Deep In The Atlantic

There is still so much that humans don’t know about marine life and the oceans. Human activities like carbon emissions, plastic pollution, and abuse of natural resources have disrupted the fragile ecosystems on our planet. Coral reefs are often observed as a barometer for measuring the extent of environmental damage to the world’s oceans. Curiously enough, scientists have stumbled upon a large number of thriving coral that has been hiding deep under the ocean’s depths.

One Big Blue Mystery

Despite all of humanity’s advancements in technology, knowledge about marine life at the deepest points of our ocean is still beyond our comprehension. Although water covers 70% of the Earth’s surface, more than 95% of the world’s oceans are still unmapped. Humans have only begun to scratch the surface of understanding the oceans and seas, having mapped a mere 5% of the seafloor.

Unfortunately, scientists and researchers are racing against time to catalog and monitor the health of marine life. The amount of devastation that climate change, ocean acidification, and microplastics have caused to the planet’s oceans is still being quantified. Researchers study coral as an indicator of the health of water and surrounding marine life.

Coral Life Under Threat

Seeing bleached coral that is a startling white color may be breathtakingly beautiful, but it belies the truth of coral reef death caused by ocean acidification. Around the world, coral reefs that are a support system for a myriad of undersea life have been struggling to survive the negative impact of human behavior.

Scientists have mostly studied coral that is closer to the surface and survives via a symbiotic relationship with algae. Recently, scientists on board a research vessel off of the coast of Charleston, South Carolina stumbled upon a wide swath of ancient coral at cold-water depths.

Shrouded In The Depths

As living proof that nature will adapt to survive, scientists on board the Atlantis captured footage of mountains of coral thriving atop dead coral. The coral was 0.5 miles below the surface of the ocean, and 160 miles off of Charleston, South Carolina’s coast.

Researchers believe that the cold-water coral reef has existed for millennia, and sent out a submersible vehicle for closer investigation and sample collection. One of the more prevalent types of coral that live in this long hidden reef is Lophelia pertusa. This type of coral has been discovered in deep water at the Gulf of Mexico, where it uses its tentacles to sting prey and guide them to their stomach.

Send Out The Submersible

Exploring and mapping the world’s oceans has been challenging because of cold temperatures, pressure, and technological limitations. The creation of the Alvin has aided scientists on research expeditions, allowing a team to dive up to 2.8 miles underwater for 10 hours. The Alvin uses robotic arms to obtain specimen samples, and cameras photograph and survey surroundings.

On August 23rd and 24th, scientists boarded an Alvin to collect samples of the hidden coral reef for further study. Due to climate change and the urgency to preserve life on Earth, there is an increased push to explore the deep sea for mapping and studying marine ecosystem health.

Mission To Map The Seas

Between the discoveries of coral by the crew on the Atlantis, and corals discovered by the Okeanos Explorer, there are an estimated 85 miles of thousand-year-old coral reefs under the surface. In an effort to expand human knowledge of vulnerable lifeforms and their habitats in the ocean, a collaborative project known as Deep SEARCH is being conducted.

For four and a half years, researchers will use technology to collect data about deep-sea marine life and look for any threat posed by human activities.

MORE: Another interesting link between a changing climate and coral reefs – Rising sea levels may actually help coral islands form, with one catch: the coral has to be alive.

The World’s Marine Life Population Has Declined By Half In The Last 40 Years

A major report by the World Wildlife Foundation has found that the world’s oceans are in peril, with some marine populations declining by almost half in the last 40 years. The scale of the loss is unprecedented and further decline could prove catastrophic for the human population. But what can be done?

What’s Causing The Decline?

The world’s ocean life provides important ecosystem services such as the provision of food, medicines, and livelihood. For thousands of years, mankind has turned to the seas for life-giving sustenance. Yet, in recent centuries, technology has allowed us to take more than ever before–and that’s not exactly a good thing.

Enormous commercial fleets, sophisticated computer equipment, and even government subsidies have led to too many boats on the water and too much marine life being caught. On top of that, poor fishery management, bycatch of juvenile fish, and pirate fishers (boats that don’t follow the rules) only exacerbate the problem.

In the U.S., for example, roughly 17% of major fish stocks are not being fished sustainably–despite having strong fishery laws. Worldwide, more than a pound of marine animals are being caught for every four pounds of fish. Many are killed in the nets or are later tossed overboard to die. And shrimping is even worse: four or more pounds of unwanted animals are caught for every one pound of shrimp.

And while exploitation of natural resources is the major threat to marine life, climate change is changing the oceans faster than ever before. Even with their vast ability to absorb heat and carbon dioxide, the oceans were 0.17 Celsius warmer in 2017 than in 2000–and while that number may seem negligible, it’s actually taken a huge toll. From coral bleaching, to fish migration, to acidification, the ocean is reaching the limits of what it can actually handle.

Which Species Are In Danger?

All of the world’s ocean life is at risk, but marine creatures of the Pacific Ocean are in greater peril than the rest. This is because there are fewer regulations in Asia, and they are fishing more waters. Of particular concern is the Chinese practice of “shark-finning”, or removing just the fins from the shark and throwing the body back in the water.

In addition, global populations of the Scombridae family of food fish (tunas, mackerels, and bonitos) have fallen by an astounding 74%, while other creatures such as the Hawksbill Turtle and Hawaiin Monk Seal are critically endangered.

It’s not just the fish and animals that are in trouble. Their habitats are, too. Some, such as mangroves and seagrasses, have seen a significant decline. It is also estimated that 75% of the remaining coral reefs in the world are currently in danger–and while they are technically an animal, they also serve as a home for many other creatures.

What Can Be Done?

The scope of the problem may seem overwhelming, but there are concrete steps that can be taken to help restore the world’s oceans.

According to the WWF report, “Creating networks of well-managed Marine Protected Areas is a proven way to enable wildlife and habitats to recover. Pushing for a strong global deal on climate change would help the seas sustain life far into the future. Taking serious steps to implement this year’s Sustainable Development Goals in the UK and abroad could help build a global economy that values natural capital, respects natural habitats and rewards responsible business.”

In addition, each one of us can make a difference every day by choosing sustainably harvested fish, volunteering for a marine rescue center, or just taking shorter showers.

Millennia Old Immortal Microbes Thrive On An Iota Of Energy

Deep below the surface of the ocean, humans are constantly uncovering more about the mysteries of life. Recently, scientists have discovered creatures in the ocean that manage to subsist on very little energy, and are millions of years old.

It is easy to miss ancient forms of life on this planet when they are unseen by the naked eye. If anyone is looking for the fountain of youth, microbes may have the secret.

A Steady Diet Of Almost Nothing

Most of the life forms that humans are acquainted with require sunlight and food to survive. Marine life that occasionally breaks through the surface, or can be viewed when snorkeling is similar to surface dwellers. However, when it comes to the darkest recesses of the ocean, where sunlight is practically non-existent, life takes on complex and fascinating forms.


Possums are not the only creatures on the planet to ‘play dead,’ as microbes living in the Pacific Ocean have been cheating death for 75-million-years. According to scientist James Bradley, it is suspected that these microbes have evolved to burn off an iota of energy to maintain their life.

Compared to a human being which requires 97.2 joules a second, the ancient microbes in the Pacific require only 0.00000000001 joules annually to thrive. Despite the lack of sunlight and food, these microbes have largely gone unnoticed until now.

Searching For Signs Of Life

The discovery of these ancient microbes is huge for science and how humans define life. While many people are on a quest to colonize Mars, determining whether a seemingly inhabitable place can support life is vital. Thanks to the existence of these million-year-old microbes, scientists realize the importance of not ruling out the existence of life forms in a seemingly barren environment.


Why are scientists so obsessed with focusing on microbes when searching for proof of life? Humans have enjoyed rich relationships with microorganisms. Microbes are integral to digesting food, maintaining organ system functions, and live in symbiosis inside and out of our bodies.

Although human beings may carry a sequence of nearly 25,000 genes, microbes are estimated to have 500 times this number. There is still so much that humans do not understand about microbes, how they adapt to environments and the driving factors behind their behavior and existence.

Stardust And Microbes

Humans rely on microbes, bacteria, and fungi more than they may realize. Studying microbes, seeking to understand their unique life cycles and survival methods in inhospitable environments is essential to research. If human beings are to eventually colonize other planets beyond earth, microbes will surely play a role in human’s success or failure.


Discovering forms of life in water have been a critical part of surveying whether humans can one day inhabit a planet. Exploration of Mars has determined that there may have been water on the planet’s surface in the past, but signs of life may be present underground. Getting a better knowledge of the building blocks of life have often hinged on the study of microorganisms.

The $7 Million Competition To Map The Ocean Floor Begins

The ocean floor has maintained its mysteries for millennia. Even though humans may know a lot about the Earth, space, and external planets, the water that composes most of our planet has eluded our knowledge base. There’s no better way than a friendly competition with a million dollar reward to encourage public interest in the sciences, technological advancements, and curiosity about our oceans.

Compared to the detailed maps displaying the surface of the Earth, ocean maps are in sore need of an update. Teams of students and professional researchers around the world have eagerly developed UAVs and underwater drones to accomplish the mission.

Hidden Beneath The Surface

Regarding the earth’s oceans and marine life, there is still so much that humans can learn. The XPRIZE Foundation was created to stimulate people to become innovative, explore ideas, and help the progression of technology and society. After much anticipation since 2015, the finalists and location for the Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE Foundation competition have been announced.

Eight teams will be competing with one another in an effort to map out the seafloor off of the coast of Kalamata, Greece. The competition injects a new energy into research of the world’s oceans. So much about what humans know regarding the sites of archaeological finds, forms of marine life, and specific geological features are murky.

Race To Capture The Map

The technology that each of the eight teams will use during the competition will be rigorously tested. The desire to push the boundaries of science and technology is intense, as each team will only have 24 hours to complete their goal. A minimum of 100 square miles of ocean floor will have to be successfully canvassed, up to a depth of 13,000 feet.

Unmanned autonomous vessels that are capable of traveling undersea and capturing high-resolution images are a must. If a team is to beat the clock and emerge the victor, they will need reliable technology that can create a map that identifies a minimum of ten specific features. Bragging rights and a four-million-dollar prize will be awarded to the winning team, while second place will be rewarded with one million dollars.

Uncharted Territory No More

The world’s oceans hold a vast amount of untapped resources and information. Emerging technology that can help better chart and study the oceans will be useful for climate change, industry, and preserving life on the planet. Surprisingly, only five percent of the world’s oceans have been fully explored, and understanding the sensitivity of the ocean to incoming cosmic rays would be beneficial.

The continuation of modern human society is dependent on maintaining healthy oceans, monitoring marine life cycles, and reducing greenhouse gasses. Recovery of ancient human artifacts, and reviewing the changing terrain of the oceans at levels where sunlight is non-existent is critical to human advancement. The secrets to life itself, medical advancements, and understanding the severity of human impact on the oceans may be furthered via this competition.

Coral Transplants Help Threatened Coral Reefs Recover And Thrive

Coral may be tiny animals that live in vast networks under the ocean, but they are a big part of a healthy marine ecosystem, tourism, and fishing industries. Over 60% of coral reefs are under threat by human activities, despite coral reefs being a source of rich biodiversity and a potential source of medicines. The coral reefs that exist today have taken hundreds and thousands of years to develop, with some reefs dating back to 50 million years ago. Coral reefs are responsible for supporting 25% of marine life, so protecting them for generations to come is of utmost importance. Saving corals from eradication and slowed reproduction rates may require the use of transplantation.

Bringing On The Heat

If you fancy a dip in the ocean while on vacation, you might find that the water is warmer than in the past. Observing the health of coral reef populations throughout the world have helped scientists uncover how much human behavior impacts the seas. Rampant climate change has led to widespread ocean acidification, coral bleaching events, and has disrupted a precious equilibrium in the ocean. Ocean acidification has rapidly bleached the Great Barrier Reef, leaving only seven percent unaffected. The rising acidity of the oceans has led to coral reefs becoming brittle, slow growing, and unable to survive warmer temperatures.

Usually, coral bleaching is something that would take place every 27 years, but with climate change, a frequency of every 6 years is more common. If there are no effective actions taken to curb the level of rising carbon emissions, scientists have projected coral bleaching may take place every two years by 2030. Marine heat waves in 2016 and 2017 managed to wipe out 1/3 of the coral population. Increasing severe storms, lowered oxygen levels in the ocean, and stress from sweltering temperatures have triggered disease outbreaks and disrupted coral reproduction.

Protecting An Integral Life Support System

Coral is more than it appears in our world’s oceans, as it provides a source of food and shelter for sea creatures, regulates carbon dioxide in the water, and protects shorelines. If coral reefs were to disappear, vulnerable lands would be under threat, communities that thrive on fishing to survive would struggle, and marine life would be at a disadvantage. Thanks to coral and other essential living creatures within the marine ecosystem, the planet receives a considerable amount of oxygen for life below and above the surface. Since the Industrial Revolution, over 525 billion tons of carbon emissions have been absorbed by the world’s oceans. If the rate of carbon emissions does not drastically slow down or cease, the result for coral and life on Earth may be catastrophic.

Coral reefs are visually fascinating, providing a wondrous backdrop for recreational swimmers, and may provide a source of future medicines. Some coral has managed to survive the onslaught of human-created destruction and pollution, which have caused many sensitive species to whither away from stress, disease, or disrupted feedings.

Climate Change Demands Human Intervention

Australia has maintained a stance of not interfering with the sensitive ecological systems in the ocean, including coral reefs. Unfortunately, severe climate changes have forced a change in position. A report released by the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine sounded the alarm for human intervention to take place to save coral reefs under threat.

Coral polyps typically come out at night to feed, but rising temperatures have unhinged natural feeding cycles and food sources. The risk of predators to coral, disease, stress, and higher carbon dioxide levels are throwing nature off balance. Scientists are turning to transplant coral that can withstand higher temperatures and salinity to repopulate at-risk coral reefs.

Successful Coral Transplants Transform Ecosystems

The recent task of transplanting viable coral to the Great Barrier Reef of Australia is not the only success story for undoing past damage. Transplanting coral has been used since the 1970s, encouraging repopulation of coral reefs going barren, and encouraging new coral species to take root and thrive. Coral biologist James E, Maragos first used coral transplants while working in Hawaii. Instead of damaging coral by transplanting a section of reef to a new location, baby nurseries are grown using a little bit of coral taken from donor reefs, reducing damage.

Opal Reef is a tourist location that brings in divers who enjoy the rich underwater view, and it is a prime location for current transplanted coral. Species of coral that can survive high-stress environments are being selected to rehabilitate the area, using small clippings that don’t harm the original. David Suggett of the Future Reefs Program holds a lot of optimism in the use of transplants and sees it as a critical practice to help correct areas of marine life blight, restabilize coral reef communities, and revert years of damage.

Exploring The Power Of Genetic Adaptation

Not all coral species are suitable for the job of being a transplant, to help existing coral populations fortify against climate change. One reason rising temperatures are damaging for most coral is that it triggers coral to eject the algae with which it has a symbiotic relationship for sustenance. Without photosynthetic algae, most coral is unable to survive, except for specific species that don’t rely on zooxanthellae and live in the deep sea.

The symbiotic relationship between most coral and zooxanthellae will support the recycling of nutrients in an environment devoid of nutrients. Photosynthesis triggers the zooxanthellae that live in the tissues of coral to produce glucose, amino acids, and glycerol. Coral takes the products of the algae and produces calcium carbonate and makes fats and proteins. The algae inside coral are responsible for coral’s color, and due to stressors like diseases, warm temperatures, and high acidity, bleaching and coral death can occur.

Scientists look for coral that is genetically different and can thrive in areas where volcanic emissions give off higher temperatures and more carbon dioxide emissions. One drawback with hardier species of coral is that their greater tolerance for high heat and bleaching events is coupled with a slower growth rate. Transplanting coral is not a 100% cure-all for rapidly reproducing coral that can survive the changing environment, but it is one step in the right direction to restore balance to a delicate ecosystem.