|Polyps of the deep-sea coral Caryophyllia smithii. C. smithii is a solitary hard coral living on rocks and other hard surfaces. These specimens were collected at 400m depth in the Adriatic Sea|
Deep-sea corals represent really important ecosystems and they provide high relief habitat for a number of ecologically important species of invertebrates and fishes. Understanding the ecosystem role, function and value of deep-sea corals and associated fauna has now become one of the priorities for many national governments and international resource management bodies. These corals are relatively rare, hard to collect and maintain in aquarium and therefore little is known about their biology and physiology.
Radiotracer techniques are being used with deep-sea corals maintained in aquaria to estimate their growth rates and to study their feeding regime (by using the 45Ca method and the labeling of suspended particulate matter with 14C). This knowledge is essential in terms of management and protection of these fragile ecosystems.