Corals are gorgeous, and a critical part of any marine ecosystem; they provide homes and food for many different types of life, from algae to fish and sharks.
Recently, scientists from the University of Southampton, England and Tel-Aviv University in Israel have discovered coral 50 meters (150 feet) deep in the Red Sea, that glows brightly and in many colors—the result of fluorescent proteins.
Fluorescent proteins take in some lightwaves, and bounce them back to produce different colors that appear to glow. This process happens in all kinds of light, but it’s easiest for we humans to see when we use UV light. That way, we can see the colors produced by the coral, but not the UV light itself.
These corals could help diversify the biomedical tools used for imaging. Though some fluorescent proteins are already used to track different types of cells in our bodies, these proteins can change colors depending on what kind of light they’re exposed to. Jörg Wiedenmann, a professor of biological oceanography and co-author of the paper, which was published in PLOS One, told Quartz, “It’s a whole array of pigments that have evolved in a completely different environment.”