Content essays are written by explorers involved in a specific expedition in order to provide further background on specific topic areas associated with the expedition.
Connecting the Dots: Understanding Coral Reef Connectivity
This essay discusses how coral reefs may be connected to one another. Does coral larvae stay close to home, move to a nearby neighborhood, or perhaps even travel hundreds of miles before settling in a new reef location?
Understanding the Physical Connectivity of Reef Systems
This essay discusses how ocean currents around South Florida drive important physical connectivity between the coral reefs of Pulley Ridge, the Dry Tortugas, and the Florida Keys.
Pulley Ridge: Looking Upstream to Protect Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
This essay introduces reasons why the proximity of Pulley Ridge to the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, combined with the influence of the Loop Current, has led scientists to question whether Pulley Ridge could serve as an upstream source of invertebrate and fish larvae for the sanctuary.
Mesophotic Coral Ecosystems
The term "coral" conjures up visions of warm, tropical waters, or, as of late, the cold dark depths of the ocean where not a ray of sunlight penetrates. Found between these two visions is a relatively unknown and poorly understood depth realm referred to as the mesophotic zone -- "meso" for middle and "photic" for light.
About Pulley Ridge
This essay discusses the Pulley Ridge ecosystem, which is the deepest known photosynthetic coral reef off the continental U.S. It also describes the benthic and fish communities of this special region.
Pacific Deep Reefs 2011 -- Mission Summary
This mission summary of an expedition to the deep reefs of the Pacific discusses how these communities are less impacted by stressors than their shallow-water counterparts and may represent important “seed-banks” for potential reef recovery.
For each Ocean Explorer expedition, lessons are provided to support the content associated with the mission. You can visit our website here to search for lessons on a wide variety of deep-sea and open ocean topics. Use the search engine and see what you find on mesophotic corals. Here we provide you with some of our best mesophotic coral lessons.
A Piece of Cake
Spatial heterogeneity in deep-water coral communities
Students will be able to explain what a habitat is, and describe at least three functions or benefits that habitats provide. Students will be able to describe some habitats that are typical of deep-water hard bottom communities. Students will be able to explain how organisms such as deep-water corals and sponges add to the variety of habitats in areas such as the Cayman Islands.
Aliens on the Reef
Focus: Impacts of invasive species on coral reefs
Students explain interactions between native coral reef species and invasive lionfish, and construct explanations that predict how these interactions may affect other ecosystems.
Forests of the Deep Ocean
Mapping Coral Reef Habitats
In this activity, students will be able to access data on selected coral reefs and manipulate these data to characterize these reefs, and explain the need for baseline data in coral reef monitoring programs. Students also will be able to identify and explain five ways that coral reefs benefit human beings, and identify and explain three major threats to coral reefs.
Below are links to a few videos and images focused on deep-sea corals.
The remotely operated vehicle’s camera captures a spawning aggregation of sea urchins on Pulley Ridge.
Video from the ROV at approximately 80 meters (262 ft) on Pulley Ridge shows a number of algae species including Anodomyne and some calcified crustose algae. The large red grouper and the small reef fish are all native to the area. The lionfish are not.
Example of corals and algae found on Pulley Ridge: The plate corals Leptoseris cucullata (foreground) and Agaricia fragilis; the finger coral Madracis sp.; the leafy green algae Anadyomene menziesii; and the branching algae Dictyota sp.
Close up of a giant barrel sponge, Xestospongia muta, which provides habitat for many creatures including a squat lobster (right) and a brittle star (left).
The liver sponge, Plakortis sp., produces a series of important chemical compounds that deter predators and have biomedical antimicrobial activity.
A typical deep sponge community. This image illustrates zonation below 200 ft (60.9 m) over 60% sponge cover and significant sponge biomass.
The above items are only a selection of mesophotic coral content on our website.