Researchers are discovering extensive coral reef off the coast of southern Italy
Off the coast of Italy, researchers led by Giuseppe Corriero of the University of Bari Aldo Moro have made a surprising discovery: in the Adriatic, in front of the town of Monopoli in Puglia, they found a 2.5-kilometer-long coral reef at medium depths of 30 to 55 meters.
Of course there are corals in the Mediterranean, that's nothing new. But finding a reef of this size off Southern Italy has not been expected at all. The researchers suspect that there is more to find: similar coral reefs about 100 kilometres south of the now discovered area. The scientists described their discovery in the journal Scientific Reports and published photos and videos.
The most important coral reef-forming coral species in the newly discovered reef are the stony corals Phyllangia americana mouchezii and Polycyathus muellerae. Single corals reach heights of up to two meters.
“Hard corals (Scleractinia – also called stony corals) are known to most people from tropical shallow seas where they form huge reef structures. These corals also live in greater depth”, Richter explained. “Beyond 30 meters of depth they are real survival specialists for low-light environments where they are able to capture the energy of sunlight with adventurous adaptations and can even maintain photosymbiosis at a depth of 130 meters". However, growth and reef formation are very slow at these depths.
The now discovered coral reef lies in an area where significantly less sunlight is available. Corriero describes the colours of the corals as "subdued colors” rather than bright: they range from orange to red to violet, as he said. The authors of the study suggest that similar coral reefs are located approximately 100 kilometres south of the area now under investigation.