The Paleologos family spent a pretty penny at various Caribbean vacation resorts, only to discover that there is a coral reef growing out from Woods Hole.

I thought coral only grew in warmer climates, but you learn something every day. It never occurred to me that very deep water corals, on the ocean floor, live in water temperatures between 32 to 37 degrees cold, so it makes sense that coral in Buzzard's Bay can survive in freezing waters, too.

Marine biologists at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole are studying the Cape Cod corals and hope to answer a lot of questions, like how does tropical coral live so far north? Our waters also have significant temperature swings between the seasons, so while other species of coral can only survive in warmer, specific conditions, what makes this Cape Cod coral poles apart from its cousins?

By the way, I also found out that coral isn't a plant, but rather an animal.

Woods Hole scientists want to understand more about our local coral and how it survives under stress, in what's called a bleached state. "When corals are stressed by changes in conditions like temperature, light or nutrients, they expel the algae living in their tissues, causing them to turn completely white," reports NOAA. I found out when a coral bleaches, it isn't dead. Corals can survive a bleaching event, but when they do they are under heavy stress and are subject to mortality. Coral bleaching is of particular concern because the temperature of Buzzard's Bay is getting warmer. Just ask our lobster fishermen.

It's fascinating we find a coral reef thriving virtually in our own backyard. Hopefully, our young Sea Lab students and future marine biologists will get interested in this coral reef and learn how we can better protect this vital resource.

Phil Paleologos is the host of The Phil Paleologos Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. Contact him at phil@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @PhilPaleologos. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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