Extreme longevity in proteinaceous deep-sea corals. Academic Article uri icon


  • Deep-sea corals are found on hard substrates on seamounts and continental margins worldwide at depths of 300 to approximately 3,000 m. Deep-sea coral communities are hotspots of deep ocean biomass and biodiversity, providing critical habitat for fish and invertebrates. Newly applied radiocarbon age dates from the deep water proteinaceous corals Gerardia sp. and Leiopathes sp. show that radial growth rates are as low as 4 to 35 mum year(-1) and that individual colony longevities are on the order of thousands of years. The longest-lived Gerardia sp. and Leiopathes sp. specimens were 2,742 years and 4,265 years, respectively. The management and conservation of deep-sea coral communities is challenged by their commercial harvest for the jewelry trade and damage caused by deep-water fishing practices. In light of their unusual longevity, a better understanding of deep-sea coral ecology and their interrelationships with associated benthic communities is needed to inform coherent international conservation strategies for these important deep-sea habitat-forming species.

published proceedings

  • Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A

altmetric score

  • 106.85

author list (cited authors)

  • Roark, E. B., Guilderson, T. P., Dunbar, R. B., Fallon, S. J., & Mucciarone, D. A

citation count

  • 169

complete list of authors

  • Roark, E Brendan||Guilderson, Thomas P||Dunbar, Robert B||Fallon, Stewart J||Mucciarone, David A

publication date

  • March 2009