Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
. Earth Science News .

Subscribe to our free daily newsletters

Promiscuity may help some corals survive bleaching events
by Staff Writers
Melbourne, Australia (SPX) Apr 26, 2016

This image shows severe bleaching of corals at Lord Howe Island during 2010 and 2011. Image courtesy Peter Harrison. For a larger version of this image please go here.

Researchers have shown for the first time that some corals surviving bleaching events can acquire and host new types of algae from their environment, which may make the coral more heat-tolerant and enhance their recovery.

The research, published in The ISME Journal, was led by Southern Cross University postgraduate student Ms Nadine Boulotte and included scientists from SCU's Marine Ecology Research Centre, the University of Melbourne, the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) and the University of Hawai'i.

"This new study will cause a paradigm shift in our understanding of corals that build reefs," Ms Boulotte said.

"Most corals were previously believed to only acquire microalgae in their juvenile stage, and to house the same algae types for their lifetime.

"Our study shows for the first time that some adult corals can be promiscuous, and swap their algal partners later in life.

"This algae partner-swapping could help corals to better adapt to climate change and survive bleaching events if they can acquire more heat-tolerant microalgae."

Coral bleaching occurs when the microalgae living within coral polyps die off, leaving the coral tissues white. These microalgae are essential for coral survival and live in a symbiotic (mutually beneficial) relationship, providing corals with much of the energy they need for reef building.

The team used very sensitive new DNA sequencing techniques to analyse thousands of algal symbionts from corals in the beautiful subtropical reef at Lord Howe Island during and after the coral bleaching events of 2010 and 2011.

"We monitored the diversity and dominance patterns of the symbiotic microalgae present in polyp tissues of two coral species and found an extraordinary range of different types of microalgae present in the corals," said Ms Boulotte.

"Even more exciting was that some of the corals surviving the bleaching events appeared to have acquired new algal types from the surrounding environment.

"One of these new types of microalgae became very abundant, occupying about one-third of the microalgal community present in the coral population sampled."

Professor Madeleine van Oppen from the University of Melbourne and Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) was a co-author on the study.

"This is the first evidence that symbiont switching can occur in adult corals, as previously it was believed that uptake of new types of symbiotic microalgae was restricted to coral larvae or juvenile coral polyps," Professor van Oppen said.

"The relative bleaching tolerance of corals is partly determined by the microalgal symbiont community composition, and some algal types are known to provide higher heat tolerance to the coral than others.

"These results highlight a mechanism of corals to cope with increased sea temperatures that had previously been hypothesised to exist, but never been shown to actually occur."

Professor Peter Harrison, director of SCU's Marine Ecology Research Centre and also a co-author, said the findings were significant.

"Given the severe coral bleaching event on the northern Great Barrier Reef and some other regions around the world that is killing many corals, and the increasing threat of catastrophic bleaching events into the future as sea temperatures continue to warm, the research is timely.

"We need to expand this research from the subtropical region into tropical reef areas, where most coral reefs occur and where mass bleaching events are severely impacting coral communities, to see if other types of corals can select new algal symbionts.

"Fortunately, the corals at Lord Howe Island have not bleached so far this year so we are hoping that they will escape this stress as the offshore subtropical waters start to cool. But as the 2010 and 2011 bleaching events showed even the southernmost coral reef in the world is not immune from major bleaching impacts."

Research paper: Exploring the Symbiodinium rare biosphere provides evidence for symbiont switching in reef-building corals

Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once

credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly

paypal only


Related Links
University of Melbourne
Water News - Science, Technology and Politics

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Previous Report
Salish shoreline armoring study shows cumulative effects on ecosystem
Seattle WA (SPX) Apr 25, 2016
Bulkheads and seawalls along the shores of Puget Sound help ease erosion and stabilize bluffs to protect waterfront properties. But these walled structures also shrink beaches, reduce habitat for invertebrates and spawning fish and, indirectly, degrade conditions for iconic species like salmon and orcas. Many studies have shown this pattern at seawall sites around Puget Sound. A new Univer ... read more

Nepal marks one year since quake as frustration mounts

A year on, millions of Nepal quake survivors wait for aid

A Chinese eye delivers new perspectives on Europe's migrant crisis

Nepal's quake-hit ghost village begins fragile recovery

Electrons slide through the hourglass on surface of bizarre material

Simple 3-D fabrication technique for bio-inspired hierarchical structures

Laser source for biosensors

Indian space scientists produce world's lightest synthetic material

EU moves to lift 15-month ban on Sri Lanka fish exports

Trees' internal water pipes predict which species survive drought

The health impacts of extreme weather in South Pacific

Salish shoreline armoring study shows cumulative effects on ecosystem

IceBridge Begins Eighth Year of Arctic Flights

Nansen gives birth to two icebergs

China spurs ships to use Arctic shipping route: report

Ice streams can be slowed down by gas hydrates

Top African producer bans GM cotton

Could global warming's top culprit help crops?

Phosphorus tax could be huge if tropical farming intensifies

The P tax cometh

Ecuador quake death toll jumps to 646, one week on

New aftershocks jolt Ecuador still reeling from quake

New quake rattles jittery Ecuador

Southern Africa drought triggers DR Congo food shortage

Climate change brings conflict, Senegal leader warns

Amnesty accuses Nigeria's military over deadly Shiite clashes

South Sudan's peace deal hangs by a thread

Burundi gunmen murder military officer: witness, army

Shining light on brain tumors

Researchers can identify you by your brain waves with 100 percent accuracy

Toward quieting the brain

Bigger brains led to bigger bodies in our ancestors

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2017 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement