Soft Coral Builds Strong Reefs
August 16, 2011
"Scientists have long believed soft corals, one of the many endangered elements of marine life, are only minor contributors to the structure of coral reefs. But that's not true, says new research from Tel Aviv University—and the preservation of soft corals is essential to the health of our seas.
Joint research by Tel Aviv University and the Academia Sinica, the National Museum of Natural Science of Taiwan, and National Taiwan University has revealed that soft corals, like stony corals, are one of the central building blocks of a reef, says Prof. Yehuda Benayahu of TAU's Department of Zoology at the George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences. A new in-depth analysis of reefs in the South China Sea has revealed that massive parts of the reefs are actually made from cemented microscopic skeletal elements of soft corals termed sclerites.
The finding, which recently appeared in the journal Coral Reefs, challenges conventional knowledge about soft corals and makes their conservation a priority. Like whales, dolphins, and stony corals, soft corals are a critically important component of the marine environment, Prof. Benayahu insists."
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