Source: Washington Post
Author: Rachel Feltman
It can be easy to forget that coral are animals. Reefs look more like gorgeous marine gardens drifting in a breeze than they do colonies of invertebrates. Thanks to a new microscope — one that works under up to 100 feet of water, capturing tiny objects at high resolution despite the distortion of the sea — you can see these mysterious creatures in a whole new light.
In a study published Tuesday in Nature Communications, researchers from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California at San Diego show off the stunning results of their latest foray into underwater microscopy: Polyps “kiss.” Single-celled algae jump ship as the water warms — a devastating event known as coral bleaching. Disparate species of coral come to microscopic blows.
The Benthic Underwater Microscope (BUM) won’t replace work done in labs. It can only capture high-resolution images of objects about a tenth of the width of human hair (about 10 micrometers), and more traditional microscopy can do a lot better than that. But while lab microscopes are great for slicing and staining samples to examine at them in incredible detail, BUM allows researchers to record real-world behavior on a smaller scale. Previous resolution underwater has been up to about 20 to 50 micrometers.