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Observations of the deep-water coral Oculina Varicosa in the Gulf of Mexico
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    "In recent years, numerous discoveries of deep-water coral communities have altered the classical view of coral species only occurring in warm, shallow, clear tropical waters. Deep- water corals have been documented in depths exceeding 1,000 m, where temperatures hover between 4-8 °C and ambient light is totally absent. In contrast to shallow-water coral reefs built by hermatypic species possessing zooxanthellae, deep-water species are generally ahermatypic and lack zooxanthellae. However, deep-water coral species establish lush communities, and in some cases construct massive contiguous colonies similar in appearance and function to shallow-water coral reefs. Oculina varicosa Lesueur, a branching scleractinian coral, occurs in shallow water to depths of over 100 m, extending from the West Indies northward to North Carolina and Bermuda (Reed et al., 1982). However, in a discrete area along the central eastern Florida coast, it forms massive colonies on high-relief pinnacles in 70-100 m of water (Reed, 1980). To date, O. varicosa has not been observed in any abundance in the Gulf of Mexico, and dense deep-water O. varicosa populations have only been documented on the shelf edge off eastern Florida (Koenig, 2001; Reed, 2002; Brooke and Young, 2005). This report describes the size, structure, and distribution of O. varicosa colonies observed at one site in the Gulf of Mexico south of Cape San Blas, Florida"--Introduction.

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