Fluorescent Pigments in Living Coral

Fluorescent pigments in living coral

The brightly-colored coral reefs that make scuba-diving and snorkeling so enjoyable are essential to the survival of much underwater life. Not only do reefs offer a haven for smaller fish to hide from larger predators, but also some fish actually survive by eating the reefs themselves. Reefs offer protection to plants and animals from the ravages of waves and ocean currents. Thus, when the reefs die, so do many other living creatures.

When Dr. Charles Mazel of Physical Sciences (Andover, MA) decided to make fluorescence measurements of corals, he began searching for the right instrument. The instrument would have to be transportable and able to withstand the pitch and yaw aboard a ship. His samples also had special requirements:

  • The samples might be photosensitive, and thus could not be subjected to prolonged light exposure.
  • The samples were scattered over many sites, so the instrument needed to last prolonged periods without service. System set-up had to be easy.
  • Coral fluorescence could be dependent upon factors such as seawater composition and temperature, so perturbation of the corals’ environment had to be minimized

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