An exciting new section has been added to Lophelia.org, courtesy of Dr Chris Kellogg at the US Geological Survey. Microbiology, the study of unicellular, microscopic organisms, is an important new area of research for cold-water corals. Just as humans have beneficial bacteria living on our skin and in our intestines, corals have symbiotic microbes in their mucus, tissues, and skeletons. It is possible that the microbes are helping to feed these corals, similar to the chemosynthetic bacterial symbionts that feed hydrothermal-vent worms. Unfortunately, there are also disease-causing microbes that can infect corals.
Identifying and characterising those bacteria will not only increase our understanding of microbial diversity, but could also uncover a new source of enzymes or pharmaceuticals.
Visit the new Microbiology section to learn all about this fascinating area of research.