Madrepora oculata is one of the deepest reef building stony corals in the world, known to occur as deep as 2020 meters. Colonies are distinguished by the zig-zag appearance of their branches. This colony is home to several squat lobsters at 750 meters depth in Roatan, Honduras. The green laser points in the lower center are 10 cm apart.
In 2010 and 2011, a NOAA-led team of researchers explored the deep Meso-American Reef off Roatan, Honduras, as part of a multi-year expedition called 'Deep Coral and Associated Species Taxonomy and Ecology', or DeepCAST. The goal of DeepCAST is to estimate deep-sea coral abundance and diversity; and to discern the nature of the relationship between host corals and their associated species. The primary reasons we study deep-sea corals are because they provide habitat to other species of fish, sea stars, shrimp and crabs; and they grow very slowly, so they are vulnerable to bottom contact fishing gear.