Deep-water corals are found along the oceanic margins world-wide and in the north east Atlantic the most abundant species is Lophelia pertusa (L.). There is now growing evidence that deep-water reefs formed by such species are coming under increasing pressures from resource exploitation, principally deep-sea trawling and hydrocarbon exploration. Here a novel and unobtrusive method of recording deep-water coral behaviour in the laboratory is described using time-lapse video to record silhouettes of the polyps under infrared illumination. The polyps of L. pertusa behaved asynchronously and did not show any clear diurnal patterns over a three-day observation period. Conceptually, sessile benthic suspension feeders appear to be vulnerable to smothering by sediments disturbed by bottom trawls or sub-seabed drilling. This method allows deep-water coral polyp behaviour to be continuously monitored in the laboratory and, therefore, the responses of coral polyps to environmental perturbations such as sedimentation can be recorded. Further work is necessary to resolve the sensitivity of deep-water corals to short-term environmental change and the combined approach of in situ monitoring and subsequent laboratory experimentation has great potential to address these issues.
- Marine & Freshwater Biology
- LOPHELIA-PERTUSA L