The Mysteries of Deep Coral Reefs – and the Man Working to Solve Them

Coral reefs are in trouble. It has been estimated that seventy five percent of the world’s remaining coral reefs are in danger, and many have been killed already. Their recent demise is due to numerous effects of human activity, especially the warm waters and ocean acidification caused by climate change.

Most of the funding for modern research of the reefs is poured into the shallow reefs, which lie approximately 30 meters (or shallower) from the ocean’s surface. However, zoologist, naturalist, expert diver, and fourth generation Hawaiian Richard Pyle is interested in something a little different.


He is much more intrigued by the deeper coral that has not yet been examined so thoroughly. Before he helped to pioneer state-of-the-art scuba diving technologies, there was no way for scuba divers to reach dimly lit coral, which extends as far as 150 meters below the surface. Richard refers to this mesophotic sector of reef as ‘The Twilight Zone.’

With the vibrant and well-publicized shallow reefs in such peril, Richard and others have wondered if species displaced by reef bleaching/death could find a new home in the mesophotic zone, which contain eighty percent of living reefs. However, before such questions are answered, more extensive research into life in the deeper reef is necessary.

Richard and his team have been conducting just that. Richard himself has named more than ten new species from his numerous dives into the deeps. He and his team continue to go on dives in Hawaii and around the world to collect new fish, as well as observe the way of life in these previously ignored ecosystems.

The shallow reefs are not totally lost yet, but they are undeniably dying at an alarming rate. If they continue to do so, a better understanding of deeper reefs is necessary in order to assess future plans of action. Richard Pyle hopes to bring that knowledge to other scientists, and to the public as well.



3 thoughts on “The Mysteries of Deep Coral Reefs – and the Man Working to Solve Them

  1. Great article.
    You mention at the beginning how much of a difference there has been from shallow water to deep sea reefs. How much of a difference exactly? For research and money?
    This is a very relevant topic that makes for a good conversation piece, if more people knew about what was happening maybe significant change can occur.


  2. In one of my courses, we have actually discussed just how limited and selective coral reef habitation is. They only develop under very specific conditions and, are thus very vulnerable should they be disrupted. It is very alarming to know that these areas are being decimated at such an alarming rate. Great read!


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