October 23, 2014, 2:34 am

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  • Cold-water coral reefs are home to many other species
  • Cold-water coral reefs are home to many other species
  • Cold-water coral reefs are home to many other species
1. A crab forages amongst the dead coral rubble of Lophelia pertusa colonies, Porcupine Seabight © Ifremer & AWI (2003). 2. A bright orange antipatharian coral being guarded by two squat lobsters, Munidopsis sp., Porcupine Seabight © Ifremer & AWI (2003). 3. The head of Eunice norvegica, a bristle worm © R. Milligan, SAMS (2005).

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Ecology

Ecology is a wide ranging field, which studies how living organisms relate to and interact with their surroundings. To put it more simply, ecology deals with how living organisms go about their daily business such as feeding, moving, fighting or mating.

The ecology of deep-sea organisms including Lophelia is very difficult to study. Biologists can’t conduct the usual type of experiments which would show how this species interacts with others and their surroundings. Instead much of our knowledge stems from observations either by ROV and video or from manned submersibles. Unfortunately, much is largely theorised based on past research on more accessible organisms, such as tropical coral reefs.

The ecology of a reef system is immensely complicated, with many thousands of different animals all going about their business. Some are predatory, whilst others eat away at the coral framework, breaking down larger parts into smaller ones. Here we summarise some of the available information on the ecology of a cold-water coral reef. Much of the published work is concentrated upon Lophelia pertusa reefs and that is reflected here.