Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Living cold-water coral reef discovered off Greenland

Date:
January 28, 2014
Source:
Technical University of Denmark (DTU)
Summary:
By sheer coincidence, Canadian researchers have discovered a reef of living cold-water corals in southern Greenland. The first-ever Greenlandic reef is located in southwest Greenland and was formed by cold-water corals with hard limestone skeletons. There are several species of coral in Greenland, but this is the first time that an actual reef has been found.

Coral from the newly discovered reef off Greenland.
Credit: Bedford Institute of Oceanography

By sheer coincidence, Canadian researchers have discovered a reef of living cold-water corals in southern Greenland. PhD student Helle Jørgensbye from DTU in Denmark has been investigating the reef further

The first ever Greenlandic reef is located in southwest Greenland and was formed by cold-water corals with hard limestone skeletons. There are several species of coral in Greenland, but this is the first time that an actual reef has been found.

In the tropics, reefs are popular tourist destination for divers, but there is little prospect of Greenland becoming a similar diving hotspot. The newly discovered living reef is located off Cape Desolation south of Ivittuut, and lies at a depth of 900 metres in a spot with very strong currents, making it difficult to reach. This also means that so far little is known about the reef itself and what lives on it

The reef was discovered by accident when a Canadian research vessel needed to take some water samples. When the ship sent the measuring instruments down to a depth of 900 metres, they came back up completely smashed. Fortunately there were several pieces of broken coral branches on the instrument that showed what was responsible.

"At first the researchers were swearing and cursing at the smashed equipment and were just about to throw the pieces of coral back into the sea, when luckily they realized what they were holding," says PhD student Helle Jørgensbye, DTU Aqua, who does research into life at the bottom of the west Greenland waters.

The first photos

Another Canadian research vessel returned to the site last fall to try and lower a camera down onto the reef to explore it close up. The coral reef is on the continental shelf itself where it is very steep and where there are strong currents.

"We got some photos eventually, although we almost lost them at the bottom of the ocean as the camera got stuck fast somewhere down in the depths. Luckily we managed to get it loose again and back up to the surface," says Helle Jørgensbye.

"It's been known for many years that coral reefs have existed in Norway and Iceland and there is a lot of research on the Norwegian reefs, but not a great deal is known about Greenland. In Norway, the reefs grow up to 30 metres high and several kilometres long. The great Norwegian reefs are over 8,000 years old, which means that they probably started to grow after the ice disappeared after the last ice age. The Greenlandic reef is probably smaller, and we still don't know how old it is," says Helle Jørgensbye, expressing the hope that at some point this will be investigated more closely.

According to Helle Jørgensbye, finding a coral reef in southern Greenland was not entirely unexpected:

"There are coral reefs in the countries around Greenland and the effect of the Gulf Stream, which reaches the west coast, means that the sea temperature get up to about 4 degrees, which is warm enough for corals to thrive. In addition to the, for Greenland, comparatively warm temperature, a coral reef also needs strong currents. Both these conditions can be found in southern Greenland," she says.

Coral reefs are important areas for fish because it provides masses of food and lots of hiding places for fish fry. The Greenlandic reef is formed from Lophelia stoney corals. Other species of coral are also found in many parts of the west coast. However, they are all 'stand-alone' corals and do not form reefs. The identification of the Lophelia specimen was carried out by Professor Ole Tendal from Denmark's Natural History Museum.

Cold Water Corals

Normally, coral reefs are associated with the tropics, but they are also found in cold waters. While the tropical coral reefs depend on light to survive, cold-water coral reefs live in total darkness, at depths the sun's rays never penetrate. Nevertheless, they have many colourful residents and many different kinds of organisms living in them.

Coral reefs are built up of thousands of small coral animals that live in a large colony which forms a common limestone skeleton. While hot water corals obtain some of the energy they need to grow from the light-dependent green algae which live in the corals, cold water coral get all their nourishment from small animals, which they catch. Thus, they are not dependent on light and can live in very deep water


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Technical University of Denmark (DTU). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Technical University of Denmark (DTU). "Living cold-water coral reef discovered off Greenland." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 January 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140128094334.htm>.
Technical University of Denmark (DTU). (2014, January 28). Living cold-water coral reef discovered off Greenland. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140128094334.htm
Technical University of Denmark (DTU). "Living cold-water coral reef discovered off Greenland." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140128094334.htm (accessed July 29, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Baluchistan Mining Eyes an Uncertain Future

Baluchistan Mining Eyes an Uncertain Future

AFP (July 29, 2014) — Coal mining is one of the major industries in Baluchistan but a lack of infrastructure and frequent accidents mean that the area has yet to hit its potential. Duration: 01:58 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Newsy (July 28, 2014) — The asteroid that killed the dinosaurs struck at the worst time for them. A new study says that if it hit earlier or later, they might've survived. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming

The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming

AP (July 28, 2014) — AP Investigation: As the Obama administration weans the country off dirty fuels, energy companies are ramping-up overseas coal exports at a heavy price. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

AP (July 27, 2014) — A live-streaming webcam catches loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings emerging from a nest in the Florida Keys. (July 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins