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(CNN) -- Scientists have found evidence of "dramatic" damage to deep-sea coral near the site of the Gulf oil disaster, with one biologist describing it as a shocking find that "slapped you in the face."
"This was the first time that anyone has seen a visually compelling indication of impact to deep sea animals in the vicinity of this deep-sea event," said Charles Fisher, a Penn State University biologist and the leader of a government-funded research expedition.
"We have some very compelling circumstantial evidence and that came from this expedition where we were out studying deep sea coral communities we know about, and exploring for new communities."
The research team encountered an apparently "unhealthy" colony of Madrepora -- a hard coral species -- on November 2 at a depth of 1,400 meters. While some in the coral colony appeared normal, others were covered in a "brown material" and were producing "abundant mucous," he said.
The scientists also encountered a community of soft corals nearby that also appeared to be affected. Extensive portions of the coral colonies were either recently dead or dying.
Who really cares about coral reefs? What good do they do for us?