A coral reef can look like any other reef, but it can also look like a giant sea snail.
That’s because of the way it responds to light.
Learn more: Scientists have long studied how coral reefs evolve to protect themselves from marine predators.
But until now, scientists have been limited to seeing them as a single structure or as a collection of individual structures.
“There is a lot of uncertainty in how reefs are related to each other and also how coral responds to changes in light,” says Dr. Paul Geddes, a marine ecologist at the University of British Columbia.
Gedders says that’s because reef animals are so different from one another.
The same animal can be living in different places, and each individual reef is unique.
For example, Gedding says, some species live in a different location than others.
But reef animals can also be located in the same place, so that coral can move between reefs to feed or defend themselves.
“So it’s a bit like a puzzle,” he says.
Coral reefs are very unique.
They’re a kind of coral, but they have many different features that are unique to them.
Learn how they’re made The researchers have also studied how reef animals respond to changes to light, such as by creating tiny lights that reflect light back to the animals.
They’ve found that some animals are more sensitive to light than others, so they respond more to light when it’s reflected back from nearby coral.
“These are really important observations for coral reef conservation,” Gedds says.
But Gedd says it’s not all good news.
Some species may not respond to light at all, or even at all at all.
That means they might respond to the light just by looking at it.
And some reef animals might respond more strongly to light from distant sources than they do to light reflected back at them.
“You need to be careful,” he warns.
Gudd says the study will be a key part of future research into how reefs work, and what they’re up against in the ocean.