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Coral reef

A Symbiotic Superorganism

WHOI microbiologist Amy Apprill says there’s more to coral reefs than just corals and fish. Reefs also teem with microscopic life—bacteria, archaea, viruses and algae. There are even bacteria that live inside the tiny coral polyps, much the same way symbiotic microbes populate the human gut and respiratory tract. “We are looking at the coral complex like a superorganism,” Apprill said. To achieve that enhanced perspective, Apprill and her collaborators are zooming in on the coral microbiome with microscopes—and taking a broader view with expansive images like this one, produced by a WHOI-designed ultra-high-definition 8K video system. (Photo by Luis Lamar and Maryann Morin, Advanced Imaging and Visualization Laboratory, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

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