Hawaiian Living Coral Dated at 4,265 years Old: Scientists Call for Protection

March 29, 2009

(ChattahBox)—A team of researchers led by Texas A&M University, amazingly discovered that a type of coral living deep in the ocean off the coast of Hawaii, is 4,265 years old. Scientists thought the beautiful deep sea coral bed was at least a few hundred years old, but were surprised themselves to find it was “thousands” of years old instead. This discovery makes the Hawaiian coral one of the oldest, continuously living species on the planet. Scientists are concerned that poaching and damage from the nets of deep sea fishermen, will destroy this ancient deep-sea wonder of the world, and steps need to be taken to protect it.

Professor Brendan Roark of Texas A&M led a team of scientists from Stanford University, the University of California-Santa Cruz and Australian National University in Canberra, in high tech deep-sea submersible vehicles, to reach the coral bed 1,200 feet below the ocean.

The scientists identified a beautiful orange coral bed, known as Leiopathes, which spans several hundred square feet on the ocean floor, extending on average, one meter tall and wide. Roark described the makeup of the rare coral organism as having a living black skeleton with bright orange skin. When carbon dating proved the coral was 4,265 years old, the scientists were shocked! This is the first living coral that has been found to be so old.

Scientists also discovered another ancient coral species adjacent to the Leiopathes, called Gerardia, which was dated at 2,742 years old! The Gerardia, long known to divers for its beautiful yellow color, grows even bigger than Leiopathes, at a top size of four meters wide and tall.

These findings put the coral in the same league as the ancient 5,000-year-old Bristlecone Pine Trees of Northern California, which to date, are the oldest living organism known to scientists, but with further studies of coral, this could change.

The scientists recently published their findings in the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.” After such a groundbreaking discovery, scientists are calling for further measures to protect these ancient, slow-growing coral specimens.

Many poachers break off pieces of the precious living coral to make into coveted jewelry. Deep-sea trawling fishermen also pose a real danger to the coral with their boats and nets, as they scrape the ocean floor for fish, damaging the coral.International laws already in place, to outlaw harvesting of the coral beds do not have enough teeth to fully protect the ancient coral.

Scientists hope further action can be taken to protect the coral from destruction. A living creature that has survived quietly on the ocean floor for thousands of years, should not know be allowed to wither away from the actions of man.

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