Deep-sea Corals


These selected lessons were developed by scientists and educators to demonstrate key concepts related to deep-sea corals. For more lessons, search the full lesson archive.

Older lessons are aligned to the National Science Education Standards and newer lessons support the Next Generation Science Standards  (and their associated Common Core Standards). All lessons from 2006 to the present also support the Ocean Literacy Essential Principles and Fundamental Concepts . Note: The links provided in lessons are verified at the time of publication, but over time, may change or become obsolete.

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Middle School

Student Investigation: Feeding the Million Mounds of Deep-Sea Coral

Focus: Effect of ocean currents on food supply for deep-sea corals (Life Science, Ecology)

The Million Mounds coral region, located off the coasts of Georgia and Florida, is one of the largest, continuous stretches of deep-sea corals on Earth (that we know of). The large coral mounds in this region have been growing for hundreds of thousands of years.This investigation features maps, images, and videos from expeditions that explored the Million Mounds coral region. Students analyze and interpret data from the region, including currents and plankton movement to explain the deep-sea phenomenon: How do the deep-sea corals in the Million Mounds coral region get the food they need to grow and reproduce?

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How Do Your Corals Grow? (pdf, 755 KB)

Focus: Growth and structure of Lophelia coral colonies (Life Science)

Students will plan and carry out an investigation using models to explain how the branching structure of Lophelia coral colonies may affect the corals’ ability to take in food and communicate results of this investigation and cite evidence to support inferences about the relationship between the structure of Lophelia coral colonies and the feeding function of individual coral polyps. Students will also analyze and interpret data from photographic images and use concepts of proportion and scale to estimate the growth rate of Lophelia coral colonies.

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High School

Student Investigation: Laying the Foundation for Deep-Sea Coral Gardens

Focus: Deep-sea corals function as foundation species (Life Science, Ecology)

Similar to their shallow-water relatives, deep-sea corals function as foundation species in their communities, providing food, structure, and habitat for many other species. This investigation features data and images from deep-sea coral gardens that students will use to construct an explanation for the deep-sea phenomenon: How does the presence of Lophelia pertusa affect other organisms in a deep-sea coral ecosystem?

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Deep Coral Communities Curriculum

Focus: Species found in deep-sea coral communities (Life Sciences)

Students will investigate the unique biology of deep-sea corals and learn to identify the soft corals, hard corals, invertebrates and fish found within these communities; view real scientific transects taken with Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs), while recording data on the presence of specified species; and graph and analyze their data to evaluate community composition.

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History's Thermometers (pdf, 439 KB)

Focus: Paleoclimatological proxies (Physics/Chemistry/Life Science)

Students will explain the concept of paleoclimatological proxies; explain how oxygen isotope ratios are related to water temperature; and interpret data on oxygen isotope ratios to make inferences about climate and climate change in the geologic past.

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Deep Coral Communities: Sentinels of a Changing Ocean (pdf, 1.9 MB)

Focus: Species found in deep-sea coral communities, the threats that face them, and what individuals and communities can do help protect them
(From: Deep Coral Communities Curriculum, NOAA's National Marine Sanctuaries)

Students will be able to describe the physical and biological components of the deep sea in the five national marine sanctuaries on the West Coast; experience the challenges associated with identifying species and recording data taken with remotely operated vehicles; explain how scientists analyze data by using species diversity and abundance from recorded video; explain the importance of characterizing habitat and be able to describe the various habitat types found in deep-sea coral communities; understand the human caused threats that face deep-sea coral communities; and explain actions that individuals and communities can take to protect these special places.

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The above items are only a selection of the educational materials highlighting deep-sea corals on our website.

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