July 31, 2014, 5:23 am

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  • Where can you find cold-water corals
  • Where can you find cold-water corals
1. 3D view of the British continental shelf. © A. Davies (2005).2. Deploying the video assisted grab, Mingulay, NE Atlantic. © G. Newman (2005).

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Where can you find corals?

Many cold-water coral species are widely distributed, found throughout many of the world's oceans. This type of distribution is scientifically termed cosmopolitan, and includes species such as Lophelia pertusa, Madrepora oculata and Paragorgia arborea among others. Some species have a more restricted distribution, for example, Gonicorella dumosa has only been found in the southern hemisphere, particularly in New Zealand waters.

Cold-water coral reefs develop over long periods of time, usually hundreds and for the larger reefs, thousands of years. Some reefs on the Sula Ridge in Norway are thought to have developed at the end of the last ice age, some 10,000 years ago. The deep-sea is a low energy environment, the corals grow very slowly and the presence of a reef usually indicates a stable, low disturbance environment.

The majority of cold-water coral reefs have been found in the northeast Atlantic Ocean, and are usually dominated by Lophelia. The largest reef complex in the world, the Sula Ridge Complex, was found off the Norwegian coast, it is over 14 km long and grows up to 35 metres from the sea bed. Closer to the United Kingdom there are many reefs along the continental shelf and offshore banks such as Rockall and the Porcupine Seabight. Recently, scientists discovered Lophelia growing on the legs of some North Sea Oil Rigs.

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