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Paleo Slide Set: Coral Paleoclimatology
Extracting core with hydraulic drill on a Porites lobata colony, Clipperton Atoll
While drilling does kill the few polyps living on the core surface, the process does not damage the colony as a whole. In fact, polyps often grow over the holes left by drilling within a couple of years. As we discussed earlier, only the surface of a colony is alive; all of the rest is the calcium carbonate skeleton deposited by the polyps. This skeleton is created from the calcium, carbon, and oxygen available to the coral in the water and organisms that surround it. When a polyp lifts itself and encapsulates a piece of skeleton, the chemistry of that portion of skeleton is locked in forever. In other words, every time a piece of skeleton is created, it leaves an indelible record of the conditions under which it was created. It is this record that paleoclimatologists are trying to unlock by drilling long cores into the coral skeleton.

Photo Credits:
Maris Kazmers
SharkSong Photography, Okemos, Michigan
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Last Modified: 12 October 2001

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