Mystery Object 3 - Answer

Mystery Object 3 is.... a small Porcillopora coral head. During a study with Jerry Wellington (the man who put the marine area of Galapagos on the map in the '70s), I stained the surface with non-poisonous maroon dye to indicate over time the deposition of calcium which builds the homes of the coral animals.

Porcillopora coral head © Godfrey Merlen During this 2 year study, the staining process was repeated at the beginning of the hot and cold seasons. It was clear that growth in the warm season was up to 30% greater than in the cold season. Corals have a 'best' temperature for growth but temperature is critical for their survival. If the temperature reaches more than 29 - 30 degrees celcius, the remarkable partnership between the animals and their photosynthetic partners, the one-celled algae called zooxanthellae, breaks down and the corals may die. This happened in Galapagos during the very strong El Nino events of 1982 and 1998 and many corals died. This is known as coral bleaching and is a major threat of global warming.