Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Marine Lab Team Seeks To Understand Coral Bleaching

Date:
October 26, 2009
Source:
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
Summary:
With technology similar to that used by physicians to perform magnetic resonance imaging scans, researchers are studying the metabolic activity of a pathogen shown to cause coral bleaching, a serious threat to undersea reef ecosystems worldwide.

Coral in the genus Pocillopore showing bleached and normal pigmented sections.
Credit: NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service

With technology similar to that used by physicians to perform magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, researchers from six institutions -- including the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) -- working at the Hollings Marine Laboratory (HML) in Charleston, S.C., are studying the metabolic activity of a pathogen shown to cause coral bleaching, a serious threat to undersea reef ecosystems worldwide.

Coral bleaching is the whitening of living coral due to a disruption of the symbiosis (two organisms whose living together benefits both) with its zooxanthellae, tiny photosynthesizing algae. These unicellular creatures reside within the coral's tissues and provide the host organism with up to 90 percent of its energy. It's the solar-derived chemical products of these algae that give the world's coral species a rainbow of vivid colors. Unfortunately, ecologically valuable coral colonies around the globe are being threatened by an ocean-dwelling bacterium known as Vibrio coralliilyticus. When the microbe becomes virulent, it can infiltrate coral and dislodge the zooxanthellae, causing the coral to lose its pigmentation. If symbiosis is disrupted long enough, the coral dies from starvation.

Environmental scientists have shown in laboratory experiments that the virulence of V. coralliilyticus is temperature dependent, causing bleaching at temperatures above 24 degrees Celsius (75 degrees Fahrenheit). These findings have raised concerns that increasing ocean temperatures -- either through natural seasonal changes or climate change trends -- may lead to increased risk of widespread coral bleaching. During the past two decades, it has been reported that nearly 30 percent of the world's coral reefs -- and the ecosystems they support -- have been severely degraded by bleaching.

In a recent paper in Environmental Science and Technology, the HML research team described how it used nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) to study metabolic changes in V. coralliilyticus resulting from temperature effects. The technique allows discovery of small-molecule metabolism-related compounds that correlate with different biological conditions. In this study, the levels of three compounds -- betaine, glutamate and succinate -- that help regulate energy production and osmotic pressure (a mechanism for maintaining cellular integrity) in V. coralliilyticus were determined to vary significantly between 24 degrees Celsius when the bacterium is not virulent and 27 degrees Celsius (81 degrees Fahrenheit) when it is. These metabolic changes, the HML team believes, are clues to learning why the small temperature change can turn non-virulent V. coralliilyticus into a coral bleaching menace.

Future metabolomic studies of V. coralliilyticus are planned to better understand the complete temperature-dependent mechanism involved in its pathogenicity. The researchers hope that these findings will lead to a better understanding of the symbiotic relationships that exist in healthy coral and the potential impacts on those relationships under changing ecological conditions.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Boroujerdi et al. NMR-based microbial metabolomics and the temperature-dependent coral pathogen Vibrio coralliilyticus. Environmental Science & Technology, 2009; 43 (20): 7658 DOI: 10.1021/es901675w

Cite This Page:

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). "Marine Lab Team Seeks To Understand Coral Bleaching." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 October 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/10/091022114357.htm>.
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). (2009, October 26). Marine Lab Team Seeks To Understand Coral Bleaching. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/10/091022114357.htm
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). "Marine Lab Team Seeks To Understand Coral Bleaching." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/10/091022114357.htm (accessed October 20, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Monday, October 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Hey, Doc! Sewage, Beer and Food Scraps Can Power Chevrolet’s Bi-Fuel Impala

Hey, Doc! Sewage, Beer and Food Scraps Can Power Chevrolet’s Bi-Fuel Impala

3BL Media (Oct. 20, 2014) Hey, Doc! Sewage, Beer and Food Scraps Can Power Chevrolet’s Bi-fuel Impala Video provided by 3BL
Powered by NewsLook.com
White Rhino's Death In Kenya Means Just 6 Are Left

White Rhino's Death In Kenya Means Just 6 Are Left

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) Suni, a rare northern white rhino at Ol Pejeta Conservancy, died Friday. This, as many media have pointed out, leaves people fearing extinction. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Beijing Marathon Runners Brave Hazardous Air Pollution

Beijing Marathon Runners Brave Hazardous Air Pollution

AFP (Oct. 19, 2014) Tens of thousands of runners battled thick smog at the Beijing Marathon on Sunday, with some donning masks as the levels of PM2.5 small pollutant particles soared to 16 times the maximum recommended level. Duration: 00:54 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
As Sweden Hunts For Sub, "Cold War" Comparisons Flourish

As Sweden Hunts For Sub, "Cold War" Comparisons Flourish

Newsy (Oct. 19, 2014) With Sweden on the look-out for a suspected Russian sub, a lot of people are talking about the Cold War, but is it an apt comparison? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins