Red Sea home to radiant rainbow of glowing coral reef

25 Jun 2015

Researchers have discovered a colourful array of coral in the depths of the Red Sea, with the surprising glow bringing about some stunning imagery, and potential medicinal ingredients.

Scientists from the UK and Israel studied corals at depths below 50 metres, finding brightly glowing specimens, coloured vastly differently to their shallower cousins.

“These fluorescent pigments are proteins. When they are illuminated with blue or ultraviolet light, they give back light of longer wavelengths, such as reds or greens,” explained Jörg Wiedenmann.

Wiedenmann is a professor of biological oceanography at University of Southampton’s coral reef laboratory, whose report is now in Plos One.

Colourful corals

Wiedenmann suggested that the “optical properties” could make them viable for biomedical imaging applications. “They could also be used to track cancer cells or as tools to screen for drugs.”

Colourful corals

The surprise experienced by the scientists comes from the fact that only blue parts of sunlight penetrate depths below 50 metres, thus the significance of delving deeper.

“We were not expecting to see any red coloration around. To our surprise, we found a number of corals showing an intense green or orange glow,” says Gal Eyal, PhD candidate at IUI.

Only yesterday Kerry was found to be home to its own coral reef. A team of Irish marine scientists made the rather amazing discovery 300km off the Irish coast, just 700m below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean.

Describing its find as “spectacular”, the team came across several 20-30m wide carbonate coral mounds in the area referred to as the Moira Mounds.

Main image via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic