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How deep can coral live? © Getty Images

How deep can coral live?

Published: 27th August, 2017 at 14:00
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There is life in the ocean far far below where the light reaches.

Asked by: Richard Cassidy, Manchester


In the tropics, it was long thought that corals build reefs only in shallow waters, down to around 40m. These microscopic creatures have algae living inside them that need sunlight to photosynthesise. Lately, using new and improved diving equipment, scientists are discovering much deeper corals living in the ‘twilight zone’ down to 160m, even though very little sunlight trickles that far down. It’s possible these deep corals could help recolonise shallower reefs damaged by impacts like coral bleaching. Other types of coral – without algae partners – live around the world, thousands of metres beneath the waves.


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Dr Helen Scales is a marine biologist, broadcaster and science writer. She is the author of Spirals in Time and The Brilliant Abyss.


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