Why did these colorful coral reefs shock scientists?
The organisms were discovered 160 feet below the surface of the Red Sea.
Coral emitting a surprising array of colors has been discovered in the deepwater reefs off the southern coast of Israel, in the Red Sea.
The coral glowed bright yellow, green, orange and red and was collected from more than 160 feet below the surface by an international team of scientists led by staff from the University of Southampton in the U.K., and Tel Aviv University and the Interuniversity Institute for Marine Sciences (IUI) in Israel.
Gal Eyal, a PhD candidate at the IUI, said in a statement: "Since only the blue parts of the sunlight penetrate to depths greater than 50 metres [164 feet], we were not expecting to see any red coloration around. To our surprise, we found a number of corals showing an intense green or orange glow. This could only be due to the presence of fluorescent pigments."
Scientists believe coral found in shallow water use fluorescence as a sort of sunscreen, but finding organisms that glow even more intensely at farther depths, where little sunlight penetrates, was surprising. It's akin to applying sunscreen at night.
While the findings are relatively fresh, the scientists hope their discovery translates into real-world benefits.
"Their optical properties potentially make them important tools for biomedical imaging applications, as their fluorescent glow can be used to highlight living cells or cellular structures of interest under the microscope," Jörg Wiedenmann, professor of Biological Oceanography and head of the University of Southampton's Coral Reef Laboratory, explained.
"They could also be applied to track cancer cells or as tools to screen for new drugs."
For more, read the published research here or check out this video of the coral reef discovery:
MORE FROM THE GRAPEVINE: