Recently, a seafloor microscope was developed by Mr. Mullen, Dr. Tali Trebitz and other American and Israeli scientists to study coral reef activity. The seafloor microscope specifically focused on the polyps of these coral reefs.
Although coral reefs can span up to 1,000 miles, they consist of tiny polyps that measure as small as one-sixteenth of an inch. Now, with the new seafloor microscope, it is easier to study these polyps and have a clear look at them up close.
Divers can use these microscopes without disturbing the coral. The flexible lens on the microscope can be placed a few inches away from the coral and depict clear images of coral activity.
Scientists also developed the microscope to study coral bleaching and its effects.
While corals are animals, they contain plant like features called zooxanthellae. Zooxanthellae are one-celled organisms that can photosynthesize, allowing corals to share energy acquired from the sun.
The zooxanthellae are part of the coral bleaching process. When the waters are warm, the polyps of the coral exude zooxanthellae, leaving the corals colorless. The zooxanthellae expelled from the coral can measure as small as 10 microns. Regardless, the newly developed microscope can capture the zooxanthellae in explicit detail.
After the coral bleaching process, the coral is in a weakened state and algae begin to occupy it. Researchers are hoping the microscope can record the process.
So far, researchers have recorded footage of coral interaction in the Red Sea. One instance depicted corals in conflict. Researchers used a broken off piece of coral and placed it near a different species of coral to observe what the corals would do. Researchers found that the polyps of one of the coral were extending their digestive systems into the other species of coral in order to digest the other. Another interaction that the scientists observed was the corals exchanging food.