Lophelia may very well be one of our favorite corals ever – its stark white skeleton, elegant growth pattern and stunning transparent polyps making this an absolutely dreamy azooxanthellae coral. For those of you that do not know what we are talking about, Lophelia is a non-photosynthetic reef building stony coral that until now we thought grew in depths of up to 2066 feet (630 m). Now however Lophelia has been found at record depths of 2620 feet (799 m) in the Gulf of Mexico, and on energy platforms out of all places.
Whether the steel is an ideal surface or if it is simply the only surface available, it is pretty fascinating that azooxanthellae corals almost seem to be drawn to oil and gas platforms (think Tubastrea on oil rigs further east in Florida). What is even more fascinating however is the absolutely astounding depths these particular corals have been found at, almost 6oo feet deeper than previously thought. Certainly a lot deeper that depths most deep water fish in this hobby reign from.
The expedition was performed by collaboration between the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM),the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) over a period of ten days. The team surveyed several active and operating gas and oil platforms and pipelines with the intention of determining possibly harmful effects of oil and gas harvesting to nearby ecosystem. Instead they found thriving deep water ecosystems with Lophelia and other deep water corals and anemones. The study was one of the first of its kind and the findings are vital to helping policy-makers manage and protect ocean resources on the Outer Continental Shelf.