Laforsch, C; Christoph, E; Glaser, C; Naumann, M; Wild, C; Niggl, W: A precise and non-destructive method to calculate the surface area in living scleractinian corals using X-ray computed tomography and 3D modeling, Coral Reefs, 27, 811-820 (2008), doi:10.1007/s00338-008-0405-4
Key words: Scleractinian corals, Surface area determination, X-ray computed tomography, Surface rendering
The surface area of corals represents a major reference parameter for the standardization of flux rates, for coral growth investigations, and for investigations of coral metabolism. The methods currently used to determine the surface area of corals are rather approximate approaches lacking accuracy, or are invasive and often destructive methods that are inapplicable for experiments involving living corals. This study introduces a novel precise and non-destructive technique to quantify surface area in living coral colonies by applying computed tomography (CT) and subsequent 3D reconstruction. Living coral colonies of different taxa were scanned by conventional medical CT either in air or in sea water. Resulting data volumes were processed by 3D modeling software providing realistic 3D coral skeleton surface reconstructions, thus enabling surface area measurements. Comparisons of CT datasets obtained from calibration bodies and coral colonies proved the accuracy of the surface area determination. Surface area quantifications derived from two different surface rendering techniques applied for scanning living coral colonies showed congruent results (mean deviation ranging from 1.32 to 2.03%). The validity of surface area measurement was verified by repeated measurements of the same coral colonies by three test persons. No significant differences between all test persons in all coral genera and in both surface rendering techniques were found (independent sample t-test: all n.s.). Data analysis of a single coral colony required approximately 15 to 30 min for a trained user using the isosurface technique regardless of the complexity and growth form of the latter, rendering the method presented in this study as a time-saving and accurate method to quantify surface areas in both living coral colonies and barecoral skeletons.
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