Black And Coral
Black And Coral – Three years ago I started my PhD with the aim of bridging the knowledge gaps regarding the taxonomy and evolutionary history of the black corals. The black corals consist of a proteinaceous black skeleton (hence their name) that distinguishes them from hard corals made of calcium carbonate. Since the taxonomy and evolutionary history of this group of corals is not generally known, I first visited museums around the world to see different species of black corals. Three weeks and three countries later I had 100 black corals. However, museum specimens can be broken and incomplete, making it difficult to know that the species I’m working on is what it normally looks like in life.
A close-up photograph taken by the ROV Subbastian of a 1200m black coral at Cairns Seamount shows, in detail, the fragile structure of this poor coral. ROV Subastian/SOI
Black And Coral
A year later, I joined the RV Investigator to excavate rocks and corals in the Coral Sea. After three weeks and 55 digs I collected about 150 corals. However, like museum specimens, the loose corals are knocked and smashed against the rocks. When they get on board, the question remains: Is what I’m seeing sex-specific?
Natural Black Branch Coral Beads
Control room, using ROV Subastian to get a better look at the black corals as the pilots prepare to collect samples. Dan Miller/SOI
Fast forward to now, on the RV Falkor. three more weeks at sea; However, this time we have the ROV Subastian, a powerful but agile and precise robot that shows us in 4K resolution what lives in deep and mesophotic habitats. Now I can collect corals to represent the biodiversity found at each dive site, making sure that what comes aboard the ship is exactly the same for every species at depth. This gives me the opportunity to rewrite the taxonomy and evolutionary history of black corals, with little impact on seafloor biological communities.
This progression—from working with museum specimens to hauling specimens to ROV samplers—is similar to how technology has advanced, allowing scientists like me to advance our fields of research. And I’m excited to do this research on the Falkor RV, which will give me and others years of material to work with. It is truly an amazing time to be working in the classification sector.
We’re less than a week into our three-week cruise, and I’ve already collected 50 samples representing the four main groups of corals and sponges, including seven species of black corals that have been studied for their evolutionary history. I will answer long standing questions. For example, yesterday we collected a black coral growing on a nautilus shell at a depth of 550 meters from the Harold Keys! But what is more interesting is that the black coral belongs to a family called Schizopathidae. However, experts suspect that the species may belong to an entirely different family. With this complete sample we can finally extract and sequence his DNA and compare him to species from both families to see which family he is closest to.
Researchers Discover Vast Black Coral Forest
With weeks of diving left, I expect to collect samples that represent new species and new records for the Coral Sea. Stay tuned to see what’s on our next dive!
A black coral from the Harold Keys grows on a nautilus shell at a depth of 550 meters! Even more interesting is the fact that the black corals belong to a family called Schizopathidae. However, experts suspect that the species may belong to an entirely different family. With this complete sample we can finally extract and sequence his DNA and compare it to the descendants of both families to see which family he is most closely related to. ROV Subastian/SOI “What is this? I love it!” One of the most common phrases I hear is when people walk by my front garden. They are the object of love.
, or rather, the very large leaves of this plant. Colocasia’s common name is “elephant ears” and that is certainly a great description of the variety!
With glossy deep purple leaves that can measure over five feet wide and two feet tall, Colocasia ‘Black Coral’ is the kind of plant that will stop you in your tracks.
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There are hundreds of species of colocasia and most of them have a large tuber (fleshy root) growing below the surface. Tubers of some species can be cooked and eaten – they are known as taro.
Colocasia is related to Alocasias, but they are different plants and like different growing conditions. Colocasia likes to be planted in full sun in rich soil and needs plenty of water. In fact, unlike most plants that do not thrive if their roots are wet, they can grow in swampy conditions or even on the edge of a pond. “More water + more nutrients = more elephant ears,” say expert breeders.
Many colocasias have green leaves, but breeders work their magic and create more and more plants with darker leaves. The black coral of Calocasia is from the dark. The leaves may look slightly green when they first emerge, but they quickly turn a deep purple. My understanding is that the more direct sun they get, the darker they are.
Colocasia are delicate tropical plants and will not tolerate any frost. When grown in areas where temperatures drop below zero, tubers should be brought indoors for the winter.
Sansevieria ‘black Coral’ ‘snake Plant’
I first saw Colcacia ‘Black Coral’ growing in May 2018 at a nursery in Niagara (about 1.5 hours from where I live). It was an amazing looking plant but we didn’t have enough room in our car to fit it and all the other plants I fell in love with. However, I made a special visit to this nursery in April 2019 and put a pot of colecchia in my basket for the first time – I wouldn’t give it up twice! It had about 5 leaves and was $45. It was in about a 20 inch pot, with some “fillers” planted every year.
I kept it in my garage, taking it out to the sun on hot days, until the end of May when I planted it in a large pot by the sidewalk. It didn’t take long for it to settle in and grow and grow!
It soon became a garden feature and I asked walking neighbors about it. With the onset of summer, it increased, and then people began to slow down the speed of their cars when going for walks. One day, a young couple knocked on my door to ask about it.
As fall approached I started researching how to winterize this showstopper. Colocasia grows from tubers (large fleshy roots) and that’s what every site says. Okay, so it grows like a dahlia, I see.
Black Corals And Leaps Forward
In October I went out to collect stumps. I put a large spoon in the pot and lifted the plant to loosen it, then put my hands in the soil to feel around and gently lift the fleshy tubers.
But I couldn’t find tubers! I started scooping up the soil and digging like a squirrel looking for a nut, but all I found in this grand scheme was a bunch of fibrous roots (meaning long roots). Where were the tubers?
Oh, confused, I searched the internet again and kept getting the same answers. Since ‘Black Coral’ Colocasia was a new variety, I couldn’t find pictures of its tubers and the descriptions were vague.
I finally realized, in a process of elimination, that this type of stem must be the base of the stem, where it joins the fleshy roots. I cut off the excess stems and roots, and filled what I thought was a cardboard box with wood chips (pet bedding) and put it all in a cold storage area for the winter. . The stalks were really fleshy and juicy; I fully expected the whole thing to rot over the winter, but I wasn’t sure what else to do.
Mānoa: Coral Algae Discovered In Black Corals At Never Before Seen Depths
Spring 2020 arrived and I pulled out the cardboard box. The colocasia tuber was not rotten, but it was very red and dry. I was just thankful it wasn’t a slimy, smelly mess! I put the tuber in a pot with some soil, watered it and the thing really sprouted! It grew and thrived throughout the summer of 2020, earning rave reviews from crowds of people who strolled through the neighborhood that summer.
I dug it up and stored it again this fall and then planted it this spring. It is still planted in the same spot along the sidewalk and almost every day, from my favorite spot on the front porch, I see someone taking a photo of the plant or taking a selfie with one of the large leaves. It became a piece of neighborhood conversation. I’m so glad I drove back to Niagara to buy it!
In autumn, as soon as the weather turns, but before the hard frost sets in,
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