Mesophotic Corals
Audubon Aquarium
New Orleans, LA

Audubon Nature Institute, in partnership with NOAA, DOI, and the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, will be housing coral species from the Mesophotic Zone of the Northern Gulf of Mexico that have never before been on display for the public. Coral experts are working in the field, in federal labs, and with partner labs to learn more about these species and support propagation. These efforts are part of the four interconnected projects restoring the mesophotic and deep benthic communities that were injured by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Deep Dive into the Gulf will explain the effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion on these coral communities, why these habitats are important, and the challenges that come with restoring an ecosystem where little is known about the species, connectivity, and environmental conditions. The seafloor of the Mesophotic Zone in the Gulf ranges from about 160 to 980 feet below the surface, in the “middle light” zone that exists between sunlit shallow waters and deep, midnight-black waters.

Audubon Aquarium’s new exhibit will feature a transparent wall displaying the oil rig above the mountainous terrain of the deep Gulf, an aquarium tank housing live mesophotic corals, the Dive Deeper interactive computer game, a decorative mural of coral and fish, a moveable 3D bathymetric model of the Mississippi Canyon off the coast of Louisiana, and specialty lighting.