Scientists with NOAA Fisheries discovered deep-sea coral gardens in relatively shallow waters of the Gulf of Maine in 2014. As their name suggests, deep-sea corals live in cold oceanic waters. Unlike shallow-water corals, however, deep-sea corals don’t need sunlight. They obtain the energy and nutrients they need to survive by trapping tiny organisms in passing currents.
In the ocean’s vast expanse, deep-sea corals provide a precious commodity—habitats for marine life. Invertebrates like worms, starfish, and lobsters as well as vertebrates like fishes depend on deep-sea corals. The corals offer food, places to hide from predators, nurseries for juveniles, and a solid surface where invertebrates can take hold.
When human activities damage corals, they may take several decades or centuries to recover.