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USGS Cosponsors Third International Symposium on Deep-Sea Corals

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 white coral is Lophelia pertusa, a scleractinian coral; orange-pink coral is an octocoral
Above: The white coral (right) is Lophelia pertusa, a scleractinian coral; the orange-pink coral (left) is an octocoral. This photograph—taken in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico in 2005 (see May 2005 Sound Waves article,"Paleoshorelines and Spawning Groupers—Deep Diving at the Shelf Edge, Northeastern Gulf of Mexico")—is now linked to an entry in a geographic-information-system (GIS) database of deep-sea corals off the eastern and southern United States being compiled by Kathy Scanlon, Julia Knisel (USGS), and Rhian Waller (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution). The database was presented at the recent symposium. Photograph by Lance Horn of NOAA's Undersea Research Program (NURP). [larger version]

The Third International Symposium on Deep-Sea Corals was held November 28-December 3, 2005, in Miami, Fla. attracting more than 250 participants from 27 countries. About 40 percent of the attendees were from outside the United States. The symposium was sponsored by several U.S. agencies and institutions, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and the Minerals Management Service (MMS). Kathy Scanlon (USGS) and Anthony Grehan (National University of Ireland) were co-conveners for a double session on Habitat Mapping, Sampling, and Characterization. Ken Sulak (USGS) and Tony Koslow (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation [CSIRO], Australia) convened a session on Fish Ecology.

Deep-sea corals include both "hard" (for example, scleractinian) and "soft" (for example, gorgonian) corals that live without the benefit of the symbiotic algae (zooxanthellae) that the more familiar tropical corals depend on. Because they don't rely on zooxanthellae, deep-sea corals can live in cold and dark waters. During the last decade, scientists have advanced our understanding of these animals tremendously. They are now known to occur as individual colonies and as large reef communities in a wide variety of environments in all the oceans of the world.

Presentations at the symposium addressed a wide range of topics, including the use of fossil coral skeletons as recorders of paleoclimate, the potential of deep-sea corals as pharmaceuticals, their value as habitat for other organisms, threats to their survival, and efforts to protect them. Protection of deep-sea corals is particularly difficult because many live in areas outside the jurisdiction of any nation, in international waters.

Related Sound Waves Stories
Paleoshorelines and Spawning Groupers—Deep Diving at the Shelf Edge, Northeastern Gulf of Mexico
May 2005

Related Web Sites
International Symposium on Deep-Sea Corals

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in this issue: Fieldwork
cover story:
USGS Scientists Investigate New Orleans Levees

special feature:
Post-Katrina Cleanup—a Volunteer's Reflections

Offshore Impacts of Hurricane Katrina

Sediment-Toxicity Studies in Western Long Island Sound

Sea-Floor Geology Off Massachusetts Coast

Alvin Dives to Deep-Water Coral Habitats

Research Study Links Urbanization to Amphibian Decline

Outreach San Francisco Bay Floor Explored

Briefing on Coastal Research in Hawai'i

USGS Research on the Kona Coast, Hawai'i

Meetings Third International Symposium on Deep-Sea Corals

Awards Award for USGS Map Hawaii's Volcanoes Revealed

Staff USGS Citizen Soldier on the Move!

Native-Plant Landscaping in Florida

Publications New Book on Benthic Habitats and the Effects of Fishing

Dec. 2005 / Jan. 2006 Publications List

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