Hawaii's deep-sea coral may be world's oldest living marine organism

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Washington, March 25 (ANI): In a new study, it has been determined that deep-sea corals from about 400 meters off the coast of the Hawaiian Islands are much older than once believed and some may be the oldest living marine organisms known to man.

Researchers from Lawrence Livermore, Stanford University and the University of California at Santa Cruz conducted the study.

Using the Lab's Center for Accelerator Mass Spectrometry, LLNL researchers Tom Guilderson and Stewart Fallon 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 was 2,740 years and 4,270 years, respectively. At more than 4,000 years old, the deep-water black coral is the oldest living skeletal-accreting marine organism known.

"And to the best of our knowledge, the oldest colonial organism yet found," Guilderson said.

"Based on the carbon 14, the living polyps are only a few years old, or at least their carbon is, but they have been continuously replaced for centuries to millennia while accreting their underlying skeleton," he added.

Using a manned deep-sea research submersible, the team used samples that were individually collected from the Makapuu and Lanikai deep-sea coral beds off the coast of Oahu, Keahole Point deep-sea coral bed off the coast of the Big Island and Cross Seamount about 100 miles south of Oahu.

In the recent research, the Geradia coral was assumed to be much younger when amino acid and growth band methods were used.

With radiocarbon dating, the average life span of the analyzed specimens is 970 years and ranges from about 300 years for a small branch (with a radius of 11 millimeters) to about 2,700 years (with a radius of 38 mm).

"These ages indicate a longevity that far exceeds previous estimates," Guilderson said. "Many of the Geradia samples that we have analyzed are branches, not the largest portions of the colony and so the ages may not indicate how old the entire individual is," he added.

"The extremely long life spans reinforce the need for further protection of deep-sea habitat," he further added. (ANI)

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