Video: Coral Reefs Caught ‘Dancing’ with High-Tech Microscope

Video: Coral Reefs Caught ‘Dancing’ with High-Tech Microscope
Science & Medicine

Humans may think movement and dancing is restricted only to ourselves, however, researchers at the University of California, San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography have been able to give us a new view entirely.

Scientists at UC San Diego have created a Benthic Underwater Microscope, otherwise known as BUM, to allow them to study small coral organisms in their natural habitat. While coral is typically a large specimen that can span several feet, it is made up of tiny coral polyps, some of which are difficult or impossible to see with the naked eye. The BUM is powerful enough to even see single-cell algae that live within the coral reef.

Andrew Mullen, PhD student at the institute, said of the new equipment:

“The underwater microscope is the first instrument to image the seafloor at such small scales. The system is capable of seeing features as small as single cells underwater.” [1]

The lens is equipped with a camera that can take photo and videos. It also contains a computer that can finely focus the lens and store the images for later observation. What’s more, it comes with an LED light to create enough illumination for the photographer to snap his or her image, and can take pictures of organisms as small as one-hundredth of the width of a human hair.

Mullen and his team studied coral reefs and coral reef polyps off the coast of Maui and the Israeli city of Eilat. [2]

The tiny polyps that live on the coral are living organisms, each with tentacles surrounding its stomach to capture and provide nutrients for growth and sustainability. These polyps digest the tiny algae that floats in the water, which scientists were able to see with the BUM photography equipment.

The dancing, however, serves more of a purpose than simply recreation or exercise. Researchers found that this musicality of the polyps was actually them exchanging nutrients with one another after eating. In some cases, they send filaments out to each other in order to digest a weaker plant next to it. It is, in a way, survival of the fittest.


[1] Science World Report

[2] LA Times