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Garden Under the Sea: 3km Coral Reef Resembles Roses

Sometimes, nature surprises us with beauty in the most unexpected of places or forms. While you may expect to be wowed by the site of a coral reef, you probably wouldn’t expect it to look more like something you’d see above the water than below it – but that was what explorers found off the coast of Tahiti in French Polynesia.

In November 2021, deep-sea divers stumbled upon a decumbent coral reef that looked remarkably like a bed of roses, over 30 meters (100ft) below the surface. These large corals spread out as far as the eye could see, taking the divers’ breath away.

A Work of Art

“It was magical to witness,” French photographer Alexis Rosenfeld, the leader of the dive, told Reuters. “It was like a work of art.”

Deep Enough to Avoid Destruction

This reef of huge, rose-shaped corals measured approximately 3km wide is located deep within the ocean and so is believed to have avoided the bleaching effects of global warming that has harmed many reefs closer to the surface.

The ‘rose’ reef lives in the mesophotic zone. The word “mesophotic” is derived from two Greek words meaning “middle” and “light” and refers to an area where the algae that coral needs for survival can grow but where light penetration is diminished.

Many other coral reefs in shallower waters often form branch-like shapes and are more likely to be damaged by increasing ocean temperatures. However, mesophotic coral reefs have been known to develop a wide, floral shape to receive more light due to more surface area.

Hope for the Future

Scientists believe that this particular coral reef grew so well because Tahiti is far away from land-based sediment sources where cloudy water could hinder the algae’s growth. The algae coral needs to grow is similar to the human body and yeast or bacteria; the wrong temperature or environment can cause one to reject the other, hindering the symbiotic relationship. This perfect balance allowed the coral to grow and thrive, despite being located in an otherwise deep, dark part of the ocean.

When scenes like this are discovered, it serves to remind us that there’s still so much we don’t know about the ocean. Approximately 80% of the entire seabed has not yet been mapped, and marine biologists and environmental scientists believe that more exploration is necessary and hope to find more signs of life thriving in unexpected places.

Not only is it important that we know which species are still living in our oceans, but a better understanding of the ocean would also enable us to protect the life that does exist there. This discovery was a welcome one and certainly provided us with a magnificent view, but a significant amount of research still remains to be done if we are to protect the ocean to the best of our ability. With things like this still being discovered after so long, it makes one wonder what is lying on the seabed, still waiting to be discovered.

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