A new study could in fact lead to Charles Darwin being proven wrong about one of his more controversial theories regarding the formation of coral atolls.
The new study, which was recently published in the May 9 issue of the journal Geology, suggests that while the formation of coral atolls is a very complex issue, Darwin could have been partly wrong regarding his theory about how they form.
Darwin theorized in the mid-19th century that coral atolls were created as the tiny organisms that make up coral grow upwards towards the sun and that they were actually several thousands of feet thick, not the thin sheath of coral that was a popular conception when Darwin released his findings in 1842.
While Darwin would eventually be proven right in 1953 regarding the sheer size of coral atolls, he might have come up short when describing the process in which the form. Scientists have conducted new research and have put forth the idea that the coral's desire to grow towards the sun is not the only cause for their formation and fluctuations in size over time.
Researchers have proposed that changes in sea levels and sea temperatures brought about by glacial cycles, which has a direct correlation to the rise and fall of global sea levels, is a better barometer when determining the reasons for coral atoll formations.
"Darwin actually got it mostly right, which is pretty amazing. However, there's one part Darwin missed. He didn't know about these glacially induced sea-level cycles," Taylor Perron, currently working as a geologist at MIT, told Live Science.
"You can explain a lot of the variety you see just by combining these various processes - the sinking of islands, the growth of reefs, and the last few million years of sea level going up and down rather dramatically," Perron added.