Oldest Living Marine Organism – Deep Sea Corals

April 6, 2009 / No Comments

Deep-sea corals about 400 meters off the coast of the Hawaiian Islands are believed to be much older than once thought.  They might even be the oldest living sea organism. “Researchers from Lawrence Livermore, Stanford University and the University of California at Santa Cruz have determined that two groups of Hawaiian deep-sea corals are far older than previously recorded.”

geradia gold coral Oldest Living Marine Organism   Deep Sea Corals

Geradia (gold) coral

Using the Stanford’s Lab’s Center for Accelerator Mass Spectrometry, researchers used radiocarbon dating to determine the ages of Geradia sp., or gold coral, and specimens of the deep-water black coral, Leiopathes sp.

The longest lived in both species – 2,740 years and 4,270 years, respectively.

leiopathes deep water black coral Oldest Living Marine Organism   Deep Sea Corals

Leiopathes (deep water black) coral

Over 4,000 years old makes the deep-water black coral the oldest living skeletal-accreting marine organism known. The research can be seen in the March 23 online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Until now the oldest colonies from the Atlantic and Pacific oceans had life spans of 1,800 to 2,740 years. Nevertheless the results remain contentious with some biologists.

Here’s the real problem –

“Hawaiian deep sea corals face direct threats from harvesting for jewelry and from commercial fisheries that trawl the ocean bottoms.”

“The close relationship between deep sea corals (and the mid-water ecosystems) and ocean’s surface means they can be affected by natural and man-made changes in surface ocean conditions including ocean acidification, warming and altered stratification.”

In other words, we can really screw this up if we are not careful. What I want to know is how did the researchers get the coral into Stanford’s lab without messing with the ecosystem?

The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory was founded in 1952. It is a national security laboratory -to ensure national security and apply science and technology to the important issues of our time. It is managed by Lawrence Livermore National Security, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration.

That Lab Center for Accelerator Mass Spectrometry, is right up the street from my house.