We recently highlighted the stunning confocal microscope images the University of Hawaii has been taking of living corals under fluorescent lighting, mainly focusing on the beautiful and in a sense almost magical aspect of the images and video. This PBS video, which is part of UnderH20 a bi-weekly series highlighting marine life and related science, however reminds us of the groundbreaking and exciting applications the confocal microscope is bringing to the marine biology world. Although as reef aquarists we are all aware of the stunning living complexity of corals, for many scientist the confocal microscope is allowing a first look at just how individual coral polyps move and behave, movement that certainly gets lost when looking at a coral colony from a afar while diving.
The new look at corals that the microscope is allowing to scientist is of course not the only thing important about the confocal microscope, as this new method additionally allows for some groundbreaking science. Relating to climate change coral calcium skeleton formation in an acidic ocean can be observed like never before for instance, and relating to the biology side of things, the discovery of new organisms living with and withing the corals, along with symbiotic relationship previously hypothesized but up until recently not observable are being discovered. As the technology gets more widely used by additional research institutions we can further imagine only even more exciting discoveries.
Another video well worth watching, and if the science aspect doesn’t interest you the imagery certainly should.