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Overview

Brief Summary

Lophelia is one of the best known coldwater coral species. The reefs can grow up to 50 centimeters in height. Because this species lives so deep, it is difficult to find it. Studies of coldwater coral are taking place more often, so that more reefs are being discovered. In 1999, a large reef was found close to Norway. The reefs of Lophelia offer shelter to many other species, such as crustaceans, Norway redfish and marine fungi.
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Biology

azooxanthellate
  • UNESCO-IOC Register of Marine Organisms
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Comprehensive Description

Description

 The coral forms large bushy colonies which can be fixed to the substratum or free. The polyps are translucent and have up to 50 tentacles with obsolete terminal knobs. The colour is white, pink or yellowish. In British and Irish waters, Lophelia pertusa colonies occur in groups which are no more than 5-10 m in diameter and often smaller. Individual polyps are connected by their external calcareous skeletons. The skeletons of individual polyps are up to 12 mm in diameter.Lophelia pertusa reefs provide a habitat for a variety of species and the living and dead coral skeletons provide a biodiversity 'hot spot' on the edge of the continental shelf (Jensen & Frederiksen, 1992; Mortensen, 2001). The deep waters where Lophelia pertusa reefs occur were undisturbed by human activity until recently. Fishing trawlers are now operating in the deeper water where Lophelia pertusa occurs and causing damage to the reefs (e.g., Hall-Spencer et al., 2002). Oil extraction from deeper waters may possibly cause damage to the reefs (see e.g., Roberts, 1997; Rogers, 1997, 1999). The implementation of the Habitats Directive to the limits of the EEZ and the adoption in 1998 of a new Annex to the OSPAR Convention (1992 Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North East Atlantic) may offer an opportunity to protect important deeper water or offshore habitats and species, such as Lophelia pertusa. For further information see COR.Lop.
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Lophelia pertusa is an azooxanthellate (i.e., has no symbiotic photosynthetic algal partner) scleractinian ("stony") coral. It is thought to be distributed throughout the world oceans, except in polar seas, and forms deep-water reefs on continental slopes, mid-oceanic ridges and fjords. It is the main reef-building species in the northeast Atlantic. It is also a major constituent of deep reefs off the eastern US coast in the western North Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. The shallowest record for L. pertusa is in a Norwegian fjord (39 meters); more typically, this species is found between around 200 and 1000 meters in depth, although it may occur down to 1200 meters or more. Deep reefs provide habitat for an ecologically diverse megafauna, are likely centuries old, and little is known about basic biology, larval dispersal, and connectivity between reefs (LeGoff-Vitry et al. 2004 and references therein; Morrison et al. 2008)

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Biology: Nematocysts

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LocationImageCnidae TypeRange of
Lengths (m)
Range of
Widths (m)
nNState
Carlgren O., 1940
Actinopharynx
N/A holotrichs  60 -   x  12 - 14  /
N/A microbasic b-mastigophores  22 - 34  x  4 - 4.5  /
N/A microbasic p-mastigophores  14 - 17  x  5 -   /
Column
N/A microbasic p-mastigophores  17 - 20  x  5.5 -   /
Filaments
N/A holotrichs  79 - 94  x  13 - 16  /
N/A microbasic b-mastigophores  14 - 22.5  x  3 -   /
N/A microbasic p-mastigophores  23 - 46  x  6 - 8  /
N/A microbasic p-mastigophores  73 - 101  x  11 - 13  /
Tentacles
N/A holotrichs  49 - 55  x  14 - 17  /
N/A microbasic b-mastigophores  18 -   x  5.5 -   /
N/A microbasic p-mastigophores  36 - 46  x  5 -   /
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Biology: Skeleton

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AuthorSkeleton?Mineral or Organic?MineralPercent Magnesium
Cairns, Hoeksema, and van der Land, 1999 YES MINERAL ARAGONITE
Cairns, 1994 YES MINERAL ARAGONITE
Zibrowius, 1974 YES MINERAL ARAGONITE
Zibrowius and Gili, 1990 YES MINERAL ARAGONITE
Cairns, 1999 YES MINERAL ARAGONITE
Zibrowius, 1980 YES MINERAL ARAGONITE
den Hartog, 1980 YES MINERAL ARAGONITE
Cairns, 2000 YES MINERAL ARAGONITE
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Distribution

in Nova Scotia waters; Nova Scotia south to New Jersey
  • North-West Atlantic Ocean species (NWARMS)
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semi-cosmopolitan
  • UNESCO-IOC Register of Marine Organisms
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Ecology

Habitat

Depth range based on 1929 specimens in 1 taxon.
Water temperature and chemistry ranges based on 1362 samples.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): 25 - 80000
  Temperature range (°C): 1.112 - 25.285
  Nitrate (umol/L): 0.239 - 40.389
  Salinity (PPS): 33.434 - 38.810
  Oxygen (ml/l): 0.321 - 6.944
  Phosphate (umol/l): 0.051 - 3.216
  Silicate (umol/l): 0.942 - 95.717

Graphical representation

Depth range (m): 25 - 80000

Temperature range (°C): 1.112 - 25.285

Nitrate (umol/L): 0.239 - 40.389

Salinity (PPS): 33.434 - 38.810

Oxygen (ml/l): 0.321 - 6.944

Phosphate (umol/l): 0.051 - 3.216

Silicate (umol/l): 0.942 - 95.717
 
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Depth range based on 2 specimens in 1 taxon.
Water temperature and chemistry ranges based on 2 samples.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): 536 - 536
  Temperature range (°C): 10.968 - 10.968
  Nitrate (umol/L): 13.894 - 13.894
  Salinity (PPS): 35.573 - 35.573
  Oxygen (ml/l): 4.925 - 4.925
  Phosphate (umol/l): 0.785 - 0.785
  Silicate (umol/l): 5.837 - 5.837
 
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Depth range based on 2 specimens in 1 taxon.
Water temperature and chemistry ranges based on 2 samples.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): 536 - 536
  Temperature range (°C): 10.968 - 10.968
  Nitrate (umol/L): 13.894 - 13.894
  Salinity (PPS): 35.573 - 35.573
  Oxygen (ml/l): 4.925 - 4.925
  Phosphate (umol/l): 0.785 - 0.785
  Silicate (umol/l): 5.837 - 5.837
 
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 Occurs on soft bottoms usually in excess of 150 m and occasionally in shallower inshore waters. Rarely found attached to solid substrata.
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Known from seamounts and knolls
  • Stocks, K. 2009. Seamounts Online: an online information system for seamount biology. Version 2009-1. World Wide Web electronic publication.
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slope
  • UNESCO-IOC Register of Marine Organisms
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Dispersal

Depth range

39-2775 m
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Associations

Cordes et al. (2008) studied the role of the habitat provided by Lophelia pertusa in the ecology of upper slope Gulf of Mexico communities. On the upper slope of the northern Gulf of Mexico, L. pertusa creates habitat for a group of casual associates as well as a small number of species that may be strictly associated with coral. Although the majority of species in close association with L. pertusa were from the background fauna, a few species have only been collected along with L. pertusa to date, for example, the polychaete Eunice sp., the gastropod Coralliophila sp., and two species of ophiuroids. Eunice sp. is likely to be similar in habit to Eunice norvegica on the L. pertusa reefs of Norway, which has been shown to play a role in joining pieces of coral skeleton together by building a parchment-like tube that is subsequently calcified by L. pertusa. Coralliophila species are known corallivores on tropical coral reefs in the Caribbean, Red Sea, and Indo-Pacific and have been observed to do significant damage to Acropora colonies in the Caribbean. The species of Coralliophila in this study may have a similar negative impact on L. pertusa, although it is also possible that Coralliophila sp. may selectively graze on other species of solitary coral or octocorals, thereby limiting the amount of colonization and potential overgrowth of live coral. (Cordes et al. 2008 and references therein)

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Lophelia pertusa

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


No available public DNA sequences.

Download FASTA File
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Lophelia pertusa

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 2
Specimens with Barcodes: 2
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Wikipedia

Lophelia

Lophelia pertusa, the only species in the genus Lophelia,[2][3] is a cold-water coral which grows in the deep waters throughout the North Atlantic ocean, as well as parts of the Caribbean Sea and Alboran Sea.[4] L. pertusa reefs are home to a diverse community, however the species is extremely slow growing and may be harmed by destructive fishing practices, or oil exploration and extraction.

Biology[edit]

Lophelia pertusa is a reef building, deep water coral, which is unusual for its lack of zooxanthellae - the symbiotic algae which lives inside most tropical reef building corals. Lophelia lives between 80 metres (260 ft) and over 3,000 metres (9,800 ft) depth, but most commonly at depths of 200–1,000 metres (660–3,280 ft), where there is no sunlight, and a temperature range from about 4–12 °C (39–54 °F).

As a coral, it represents a colonial organism, which consists of many individuals. New polyps live and build upon the calcium carbonate skeletal remains of previous generations. Living coral ranges in colour from white to orange-red. Unlike most tropical corals, the polyps are not interconnected by living tissue. Radiocarbon dating indicates that some Lophelia reefs in the waters off North Carolina may be 40,000 years old, with individual living coral bushes as much as 1,000 yrs old.

The coral reproduces by budding off new polyps and by producing free-living planktonic larvae which float in the water until they find a suitable surface to attach to and grow on.

Lophelia reefs can grow to 35 m (115 ft) high. The largest recorded Lophelia reef measures 3 km × 35 km (1.9 mi × 21.7 mi) and lies at a depth of 300–400 m (980–1,310 ft) off the Lofoten Islands, Norway.[5] When this is seen in terms of a growth rate of around 1 mm per year, the great age of these reefs becomes apparent.

Polyps at the end of branches feed by extending their tentacles and straining plankton from the seawater. The spring bloom of phytoplankton and subsequent zooplankton blooms, provide the main source of nutrient input to the deep sea. This rain of dead plankton is visible on photographs of the seabed and stimulates a seasonal cycle of growth and reproduction in Lophelia. This cycle is recorded in patterns of growth, and can be studied to investigate climatic variation in the recent past.

Conservation status[edit]

L. pertusa was listed under CITES Appendix II in January 1990, meaning that the United Nations Environmental Programme recognizes that this species is not necessarily currently threatened with extinction but that it may become so in the future. CITES is technically a means of restricting international trade in endangered species, which is not a major threat to the survival of L. pertusa. The OSPAR Commission for the protection of the marine environment of the North-East Atlantic have recognised Lophelia pertusa reefs as a threatened habitat in need of protection.

Main threats come from destruction of reefs by heavy deep-sea trawl nets, targeting redfish or grenadiers. The heavy metal "doors" which hold the mouth of the net open, and the "footline", which is equipped with large metal "rollers", are dragged along the sea bed, and have a highly damaging effect on the coral. Because the rate of growth is so slow, it is unlikely that that this practice will prove to be sustainable.

Photo of squat lobster suspending itself from coral branch
A squat lobster living on a Lophelia reef

Scientists estimate that trawling has damaged or destroyed 30%–50% of the Norwegian shelf coral area. The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea, the European Commission’s main scientific advisor on fisheries and environmental issues in the northeast Atlantic, recommend mapping and then closing all of Europe’s deep corals to fishing trawlers.[6]

In 1999, the Norwegian Ministry of Fisheries closed an area of 1,000 square kilometres (390 sq mi) at Sula, including the large reef, to bottom trawling. In 2000, an additional area closed, covering about 600 square kilometres (230 sq mi). An area of about 300 square kilometres (120 sq mi) enclosing the Røst Reef closed to bottom trawling in 2002.[6]

In recent years, environmental organisations such as Greenpeace have argued that exploration for oil on the north west continental shelf slopes of Europe should be curtailed due to the possibility that is it damaging to the Lophelia reefs - conversely, Lophelia has recently been observed growing on the legs of oil installations,[7] specifically the Brent Spar rig which Greenpeace campaigned to remove. Greenpeace's campaign to remove the Brent Spar meant that in effect Greenpeace destroyed a rare species.

Ecological significance[edit]

A conger eel which has set up home in a Lophelia bed

Lophelia beds create a specialised habitat favoured by some species of deep water fishes. Surveys have recorded conger eels, sharks, groupers and hake. The invertebrate community consists of brittle stars, molluscs, amphipods and crabs. High densities of smaller fish such as hatchetfish and lanternfish have been recorded in the waters over Lophelia beds, indicating they may be important prey items for the larger fish below.

Range[edit]

L. pertusa has been reported from Anguilla, Bahamas, Bermuda, Brazil, Canada, Cape Verde, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, France, French Southern Territories, Greece, Grenada, Iceland, India, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Madagascar, Mexico, Montserrat, Norway, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Saint Helena, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Senegal, South Africa, United Kingdom, United States of America, U.S. Virgin Islands and Wallis and Futuna Islands.[8]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bert Hoeksema (2011). "Lophelia pertusa (Linnaeus, 1758)". World Register of Marine Species. Retrieved March 27, 2012. 
  2. ^ Stephen Cairns & Bert Hoeksema (2011). "Lophelia Milne-Edwards & Haime, 1849". World Register of Marine Species. Retrieved March 26, 2012. 
  3. ^ Cheryl L. Morrison, Robin L. Johnson, Tim L. King, Steve W. Ross & Martha S. Nizinski (2008). "Molecular assessment of deep-sea scleractinian coral biodiversity and population structure of Lobelia pertusa in the Gulf of Mexico" (PDF). In Kenneth J. Sulak, Michael Randall, Kirsten E. Luke, April D. Norem & Jana M. Miller. Characterization of Northern Gulf of Mexico Deepwater Hard Bottom Communities with Emphasis on Lophelia Coral – Lophelia Reef Megafunal Community Structure, Biotopes, Genetics, Microbial Ecology, and Geology (2004–2006). United States Geological Survey. pp. 4–1–4–77. USGS Open-File Report 2008-1148. 
  4. ^ C. Michael Hogan. 2011. Alboran Sea. eds. P. Saundry & C. J. Cleveland. Encyclopedia of Earth. National Council for Science and the Environment. Washington DC
  5. ^ Coral reefs in Norway (2002). Large Lophelia pertusa reef discovered off Røst in Lofoten. Institute of Marine Research, Norway.
  6. ^ a b "Deep Water Corals". Retrieved August 2009. 
  7. ^ P. Whomersley & G. B. Picken (2003). "Long-term dynamics of fouling communities found on offshore installations in the North Sea". Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom 83 (5): 897–901. doi:10.1017/S0025315403008014h. 
  8. ^ As reported by CITES and the UNEP, and as such, is incomplete, and affected by development of marine science in that country, and effort put into surveying for it.[citation needed]
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