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Images: Dead Corals Do Tell Tales

A slice through the center of a long-dead brain coral is a slice through human and ocean history. This 1,000-pound coral grew near Bermuda for 200 years during the Little Ice Age. Radiating marks visible in the photo are grooves from the quarry saw that sliced through the coral. The coral changed its growth direction once in about 1650, and marine life eroded its surface, but scientists can analyze the coral?s inner skeleton and decipher ocean temperatures during its lifespan. (Tom Kleindinst, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

A diver off Bermuda indicates the ?big dead brain? that WHOI scientists recovered for analysis. This coral died 200 years ago, but remained in place to become prime real estate for other marine life to settle on. (Dr. Ross Jones and Alex Venn, Bermuda Biological Staton for Research)

It?s not easy to get to the center of a half-ton of coral. WHOI engineer Peter Landry (right) works with an employee of Fletcher Granite?s Chelmsford Quarry in North Chelmsford, Mass., to move, position, and slice the huge coral into manageable pieces. Slicing prepares it for a later CT scan, which will reveal the coral's annual growth bands. (Dave Gray, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

WHOI Engineer Peter Landry (left) and WHOI Summer Student Fellow Nicholas Jachowski check the position of the massive coral between heavy braces before it is cut. (Dave Gray, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution )

A granite quarry worker closely monitors the coral slicing operation. (Dave Gray, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

A heavy cross-section slice of coral skeleton is lifted away. This slice will be scanned in a CT scanner, revealing annual growth bands in the skeleton. (Dave Gray, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)