Ancient, beautiful, fragile, vulnerable yet somewhat resilient, corals have inhabited out planet for hundreds of millions of years. Scientists have been studying them for decades but there is still so much to learn about these remarkable creatures. Using groundbreaking cinematographic techniques that expand the limits of our senses and perceptions, we can now view these animals for the first time as they truly are, from a new perspective.
We embark on a journey from spawning to settlement and growth, a drama that unfolds in a hidden world portrayed masterfully by exquisite imagery on our screens. Time lapse super macro photography takes the viewer into the world of corals and the other tiny organisms that make up coral reef communities.
Following an ancient rhythm and guided by the lunar cycle, many corals spawn on one night of the year in a spectacular display of nature at its finest. The eggs and sperm sacs break open, fertilisation occurs on the surface of the ocean, followed immediately by cell division. Free swimming larvae develop and join the plankton drifting in the ocean currents.
The larvae use their senses to find a suitable place to settle, a substrate of coralline algae with sufficient space to develop and grow. Life covers every surface and in the fierce competition for space an invisible biochemical war ensues. This hostile environment is filled with predators. If a larva manages to survive and find a place to settle, it grows into a juvenile and then an adult which will reproduce asexually to form a colony. These colonies are what we see in glorious vistas of coral reefs from the Great Barrier Reef.
As the colonies grow so do the intricate skeletons of hard corals. These reef building corals are the backbone of coral reef ecosystems.
Corals display remarkable diversity and we can see the polyps in spectacular detail. We see polyps opening and feeding, the prey becoming a predator.
Corals are very vulnerable to changes in ocean temperatures and under stress can bleach and die. Mass bleaching is occurring in the most remote coral reefs in the world and scientists have documented it in reefs worldwide.
Are we witnessing the collapse of marine ecosystems around the globe, an event that will change life in the ocean irreversibly? Will corals be able to survive in this new world?
Corals can be resilient. Scientists have documented corals colonising and growing in cooler areas where they have never been found before. The fossil record tells us that corals are survival experts and have bounced back from extinction events before ………………………… but it took them millions of years to recover.