In vivo imaging of coral tissue and skeleton with optical coherence tomography

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Journal Article
Journal of the Royal Society Interface, 2017, 14 (128)
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© 2017 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved. Application of optical coherence tomography (OCT) for in vivo imaging of tissue and skeleton structure of intact living corals enabled the non-invasive visualization of coral tissue layers (endoderm versus ectoderm), skeletal cavities and special structures such as mesenterial filaments and mucus release from intact living corals. Coral host chromatophores containing green fluorescent protein-like pigment granules appeared hyper-reflective to near-infrared radiation allowing for excellent optical contrast in OCT and a rapid characterization of chromatophore size, distribution and abundance. In vivo tissue plasticity could be quantified by the linear contraction velocity of coral tissues upon illumination resulting in dynamic changes in the live coral tissue surface area, which varied by a factor of 2 between the contracted and expanded state of a coral. Our study provides a novel view on the in vivo organization of coral tissue and skeleton and highlights the importance of microstructural dynamics for coral ecophysiology.
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