Watch Corals Flip Over and Attack Each Other

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Viewed from the human perspective and in the time frame of our active daily lives, corals look like little more than underwater landscape—a kind of passive ocean decoration.

Most people don’t think of corals as organisms. But they are indeed animals—dynamic colonies of creatures with distinctive, complex, and highly active lives. Among the thousands of known coral species, there’s a tremendous range of diverse behaviors, from locomotion and reproduction to territorial aggression.

But because these activities often occur too slowly for us to see in real time—not to mention underwater, where even an observant scuba diver’s time is limited—most have never been documented or studied, especially along the ocean’s deepest reefs.

Scientists are now using time-lapse photography to lift the veil on these mysterious creatures, hoping to gain a new level of understanding that will foster greater interest in corals and, by extension, better coral stewardship and conservation.

This story comes from Biographic, an online magazine published by San Francisco’s California Academy of Sciences.