Underwater Microscope for Coral Reefs

underwater microscope great star coral neon goby

The underwater microscope could seize images such as this great star coral with its neon goby.

The Benthic Underwater Microscope was used by scientists to explore the coral reef and to assess the impact of global warming and other factors on the aquatic environment.

The study that was published in the Nature Communications magazine displays the wonderful world of corals. The tool was first used to study plankton, and afterwards it was adapted for the exploration of coral reefs and algal overgrowth.

The underwater microscope includes LEDs that offer the opportunity to observe dark places and hideaways where light seldom manages to enter. A flexible lens permits the tool to focus on the coral without disturbing the setting.

The device has the capacity to capture images from a long distance, and it can be remotely controlled, which confers maximum safety for the environment and increased autonomy.

“We are not aware of the complicated systems that make up our oceans, how rich they truly are. As instrument developers and scientists, we hope this system leads to not just better science, but also awareness of the ecosystem,” said Tali Treibitz, marine engineer.

The recently published study shows a microscopic world full of incredible surprises. Coral species interact with one another and throw chemical substances in order to gain more territory on the seafloor. Polyps dance along the marine movements.

Another interesting phenomenon is the algae invasion of the deserted corals. The organisms are replacing the beautifully colored polyps that were cast away by the warming temperatures. Scientists called the process “algae succession” and it seems it can take place even as the corals are not yet voided by the protozoa that give life to the bottom of the sea.

The observations took place on a coral reef near the coast of Israel, deep into the Red Sea, and in Maui, Hawaii.

The coral reefs are fostering more than 25% of the marine fauna. The destructive coral bleaching is a phenomenon that affected almost 93% of the Great Barrier Reef, and almost a third of its surface died because of algal pigmentation loss. The healing of a reef takes over 100 years.

Researchers say that it was high time to start investing in high technology for underwater environments, as until now space exploration seemed to have taken the best of technical innovations.

There are only two microscopes of this type in the world, and they are sent to scientific centers all over the world so that further studies could be conducted on coral reefs and life in the deep ocean.

Image Source: Wikipedia