Many people think of coral as hard, rock-like formations that attract abundant, diverse marine life. In fact, corals are themselves tiny marine animals called polyps that live together in large colonies.
Coral polyps are relatives of jellyfish and anemones. Some live in shallow water, some in deep; some form hard outer skeletons made of calcium carbonate, others have a soft body encasing hard internal structures known as sclerites. Hundreds of thousands of hard corals with their skeletons glued together form the iconic reef structures that do, indeed, serve as the foundation for important marine ecosystems around the world.
News & Insights
Despite labs shutting down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, WHOI microbiologists are working fast to solve a different kind of outbreak—one travelling below the ocean’s surface and ravaging coral reefs from Florida to the Caribbean.
WHOI biologist Tim Shank discusses the exploration of deep-sea canyons throughout the Mid-Atlantic Ocean and how ecosystems there can be managed sustainably in the face of climate change and increased human pressures.
A coral disease outbreak that wiped out nearly 80% of stony corals between Florida’s Key Biscayne and Key West during the past two years appears to have spread to the U.S. Virgin Islands (U.S.V.I.), where reefs that were once vibrant and teeming with life are now left skeleton white in the disease’s wake.
WHOI in the News
From Oceanus Magazine
To investigate coral bleaching, WHOI scientists figure out a novel way to take direct measurements in the ocean of superoxide, a key molecule that vanishes almost as soon as it is made.
WHOI scientists discovered precisely how ocean acidification affects coral skeletons’ a factor that will help scientists predict how corals throughout the world will fare as the oceans become more acidic.
Some corals are less vulnerable to ocean acidification. Can the offspring from these more resilient corals travel to other reefs to help sustain more vulnerable coral populations there?
We have learned that microbial communities on and within us—a microbiome—keep people healthy. Corals reefs also have their own microbiomes that they couldn’t function without.
Scientists know that gradually rising ocean temperatures can push corals past a threshold and cause them to bleach. But combine…