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Illinois IGB


Art of Science 08

Coral Skeletons
Whorl of the World

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Mayandi Sivaguru, Kyle Fouke, Mike Kingsford and Bruce Fouke

Bruce Fouke Laboratory

Funded by NASA
Scales? Feathers? Iridescent fabric? These delicate patterns are skeletons of corals, composed of the mineral aragonite, which typically has needle- and fan-shaped crystals. Through an innovation in microscopy that looks at light in two different ways as it illuminates the same sample, these structures are revealed in colorful images like this one. The study of corals provides scientists with a sensitive indicator of past and present climate around the planet.