Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Carbon Dating of Deep-Sea Corals

New research from Lawrence Livermore, Stanford University, and the University of California at Santa Cruz has determined that deep-sea corals off the coast of Hawaii are much older than previously assumed. In fact, this new research shows that deep-sea corals might be the oldest living marine organism in the world.
Gerardia (gold) coral (Photo: NOAA Hawaiian Undersea Research Lab)

Most significantly, the researchers found samples of Leiopathes sp., or deep-water black coral, that dated as old as 4,265 years. They also found samples of Gerardia sp., or gold coral, that were dated at up to 2,742 years old. This research was published in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA.

We have many deep-sea corals and sponges here on the Pacific North Coast, but like in Hawaii, our corals are threatened by harmful fishing practices, such as bottom trawling, that destroy the ocean floor. Deep-sea corals are also threatened by natural and man made changes in surface ocean conditions - such as ocean acidification and changing ocean temperatures.

Reference: E. Brendan Roark, Thomas P. Guilderson, Robert B. Dunbar, Stewart J. Fallon, and David A. Mucciarone. Extreme longevity in proteinaceous deep-sea corals. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2009; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0810875106

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