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Species at Risk: Lophelia pertusa

Lophelia pertusa

Lophelia pertusa is a reef-forming coral that provides a highly complex habitat supporting as diverse an array of life as some shallow water reef communities. It is found in every ocean except in polar regions.

Most Lophelia reefs are found at depths of 650 to 3,300 feet, though the deepest so far discovered is nearly two miles beneath the surface of the Atlantic. 

One of the largest Lophelia reefs discovered to date is about 1,000 feet deep in the waters off Norway. It is more than eight miles long and about a quarter-mile wide, and some parts reach as high as 100 feet off the seafloor. Researchers recently discovered extensive Lophelia reefs in deep waters in the Gulf of Mexico, and are currently studying reefs in the coastal waters off North Carolina and previously unknown Lophelia off the Olympic coast of Washington state.

Living Lophelia was also discovered for the first time in waters off Nova Scotia late in 2002. Lophelia provides habitat for animals such as sponges, anemones, bryozoans, gorgonians, worms, fish, mollusks and crustaceans. Scientists have recorded more than 850 species living on or in Lophelia reefs in the northeast Atlantic. The variety of life on these reefs is about three times higher than on surrounding soft bottoms.