Scientists found an astonishing 'secret garden' of bamboo corals over 7,500 below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico on a recent expedition.
Dense communities of corals that far below the surface are extremely rare and a lot of unique factors need to align for the corals to thrive.
Check out the stunning footage below.
Scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration conducted an expedition to explore uncharted waters in the deepest parts of the Gulf of Mexico — and they found an astonishing "secret garden" of coral thousands of feet below the surface.
Using a remote-operated submersible (ROV), the researchers came across a vibrant, underwater community of bamboo corals over 7,500 feet down.
"This is a truly magnificent garden of coral fans, I don't think we've seen these densities yet in the Gulf of Mexico," one of the expedition's scientists said as the ROV revealed the collection of corals.
For a community of corals this dense to exist in the inky darkness thousands of feet below the sea, a lot of factors need to align, according to NOAA.
These bamboo corals, which are actually collections of tiny organisms called polyps, feed by filtering even smaller organisms like plankton out of deep ocean currents.
A soft coral provides a nice shelter for squat lobsters. Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research.
First, there needs to be the right underlying geology for the corals to attach themselves to. The corals could potentially be hundreds or even thousands of years old, meaning the blocks they are sitting on are really stable, the scientists said.
Second, they need access to the current to feed and be able to position themselves accordingly. And third, there simply has to be enough food available to keep the corals alive.
In the video, you can see the corals all out facing the current in order to maximize their chances of grabbing a bite.
Like their shallow-water counterparts, the corals host rich ecosystems teeming with life. On a different deep-sea coral reef that the NOAA scientists found around 1,500 feet down — which is comprised mainly of stony corals —they filmed squat lobsters, sponges, and a variety of fish.
The scientists believe that reef could be around 1,000 years old.
You can check out NOAA's footage of the bamboo corals here. Or take a look at another deep-sea coral community that hosts a rich diversity of life here.
Take a look at a squat lobster "fishing" near a deep-sea reef here.
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