Cold Water Reefs

Some of the most spectacular off-shore features of the Galway landscape are a number of cold-water reefs near Porcupine Bank in the Atlantic Ocean. Over forty coral hills, some of them are as high as 100 metres, were discovered in 2009. These reefs are located quite deep in the ocean and survive mainly by trapping plankton and tiny food particles in the water.

Cold-water reefs take a long time to form (4-25 mm annual growth) and scientists believe that the Irish cold-water coral reefs are about 4,500 years old.

Reef Life

The bush-like corals found off the Galway coast dramatically vary in size. They can grow to the height of a car or even up to 300 metres tall, roughly the same height as the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

According to the researchers, there is also evidence that the Irish cold-water reefs are an important source of larvae, which helps to maintain life along the Porcupine Bank.

Cold-water coral reefs are also home to large populations of crustaceans (for example lobster, crab and shrimp). When they shed their old shell, they can hide beneath the corals or in cracks between rocks for protection from predators.

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