Deep-sea corals off the coast of the Hawaiian Islands may be the oldest living marine organisms known to man.
A black deepsea coral found about 400 meters from Oahu and the Big Island in Hawaii is more than 4,000 years old — making it the oldest marine organism ever found, according to researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Stanford University and the University of California, Santa Cruz.
Using a manned deep-sea research submersible samples were collected at the Makapuu and Lanikai deep-sea coral beds off the coast of Oahu, Keahole Point deep-sea coral bed off the coast of the Big Island and Cross Seamount about 100 miles south of Oahu.
Through radiocarbon dating, the teams determined that two groups of deep-sea Hawaiian corals are far older than previously suspected. These are the Geradia sp., or gold coral, and specimens of the Leiopathes sp., a black species. The longest-lived in both species were 2,740 years and 4,270 years, respectively.
This discovery, researchers said, demonstrates a life form that is far older than anything found living on the planet. LLNL researcher Tom Guilderson explained that while the living polyps of the coral are only a few years old, they have been “continuously replaced for centuries to millennia while accreting their underlying skeleton.”
“These ages indicate a longevity that far exceeds previous estimates,” Guilderson told Science Daily
“Many of the Geradia samples that we have analyzed are branches, not the largest portions of the colony and so the ages may not indicate how old the entire individual is.”
The research appears in the March 23 early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.