Researchers have taken close-up pictures of coral with a special new underwater microscope.
The experts have used a novel microscopic imaging system to reveal the micro-structure of the marine life forms in the depths of the ocean. It is basically an underwater microscope that can be handled by a diver.
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It can be used to study life forms on the ocean floor to the level of millimeters on the size scale. Among the various things observed by the research team were: coral wars, coral polyps kissing and many other phenomena.
There are so many acts of biology that take place on the ocean floor at the microscopic level. However, when the researchers removed these marine life forms from their context and studied them in the lab, it just couldn’t compare to studying them in their natural settings.
The novel underwater microscope comes in handy here since it could be used to study the marine life forms in their original context. Termed the Benthic Underwater Microscope (BUM), it consists of a double system.
An underwater computer with a diver screen is hooked up with a microscopic imaging device. The marine life forms may thus be observed at the micron levels if desired.
Among the other features of BUM are: lenses with high magnification, focused light emitting diodes, fluorescence imaging capacity and an agile lens that could be tuned.
This is the first instrument to catch small-scale images of the deep blue ocean. The level of microscopy extends to single cells in the marine environment.
The study was published in the July 12 issue of the journal Nature Communications.
To reach the right scale in order to capture the microscopic world was a necessity. Today that dream has become a reality thanks to BUM.
The scientists used BUM to observe coral polyps off the coast of Israel and Hawaii. The corals were seen to release microscopic string-like filaments that gave off certain enzymes.
This was all the better to fight a battle with the surrounding corals over turf issues. However, when corals of the same species were placed side by side, such behavior was not evident. These coral seemed to recognize friends from enemies.
Also polyps kissing one another was observed in the corals. They seemed to literally embrace each other. Other daily activities of corals were noted down with a little help from BUM.
This was indeed a worthwhile venture into uncharted territory by mankind. The scientific endeavor will continue to bear fruit well into the future.
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