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How do we preserve deep sea coral? (Transcript)

There are over 100 species of deep-sea coral, so we must first confirm the identity of the sample. To do this, we remove the branch from its preservative, place some tissue on a slide, and put the slide under a microscope to reveal the sclerites. Sclerites are microscopic bones floating freely in the tissue. Every species has a unique set of sclerites with different shapes. Some have cool names like “Thornstar,” “Warty Club,” and "Caterpillar." (Note: the images in video are not sclerites, they are corals.)

We use these sclerites to confirm the identity of a deep-sea coral. Once we know the species name, we place the specimen in long-term storage for future research applications. We might wish to examine a coral’s DNA through molecular analysis or examine its chemical structure for biomaterials applications. This kind of research requires a strong background in chemistry and biology.

I hope these videos have been useful, and I hope that one day some of you will join us in the halls of science.


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