Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Computer model helps biologists understand how coral dies in warming waters

Date:
April 12, 2010
Source:
Cornell University
Summary:
Researchers have found a new tool to help marine biologists better grasp the processes under the sea: They have created mathematical models to unveil the bacterial community dynamics behind afflictions that bleach and kill coral.

A diver swims among partially bleached coral at the Looe Key Reef in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
Credit: Erich Bartels

Cornell University researchers have developed a new tool to help marine biologists better grasp the processes under the sea: mathematical models that unveil the dynamics of bacterial communities behind afflictions that bleach and kill coral.

Related Articles


Warming waters are triggering coral bleaching and disease in the Caribbean, Indian Ocean and Great Barrier Reef off the Australian coast. The new models explain for the first time how beneficial bacteria on coral suddenly give way to pathogens when waters warm.

"Before this study, we just had observations but little understanding of the mechanism" for what causes coral disease and bleaching, said Laura Jones, Cornell senior research associate in ecology and evolutionary biology and a co-author of a paper that appears in PLoS Biology, published by the Public Library of Science.

Justin Mao-Jones '08, who conducted the research as an undergraduate in the School of Operations Research and Information Engineering, is the paper's lead author. Stephen Ellner, Cornell professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, is the paper's senior author.

The model reveals how a healthy, normal microbial community in the coral surface-mucus layer protects corals from disease by preventing the invasion and overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria. But when corals are stressed by warmer temperatures (a heat spell), for example, the community of microbes suddenly switches. Species associated with a healthy coral organism -- "resident species" -- decline as pathogens associated with coral disease take their place.

The researchers used models to simulate bacterial community dynamics within the surface coral mucus under normal conditions and under warmer conditions.

"There's a critical threshold where the system jumps to a pathogen-dominated state," said Jones.

They also found that the models replicated a pattern others have observed: Once the disease-causing microbes establish themselves, they persist even if the water cools down enough to favor the beneficial bacteria. The coral is then often too damaged to recover, and the reefs begin to die.

Preventing oceans from warming will require people to curb climate change, and may be unavoidable in the short term, said Jones. But reducing poor water quality, which stresses the coral and makes the oceans more hospitable to pathogens, could perhaps ward off the sudden shift to pathogens dominating the coral surface, she added.

Kim Ritchie, a marine biologist at the Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Fla., also co-authored the paper.

The study was funded by an Emerging Infectious Diseases grant from the National Science Foundation.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cornell University. The original article was written by Krishna Ramanujan. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal References:

  1. Justin Mao-Jones, Kim B. Ritchie, Laura E. Jones, Stephen P. Ellner. How Microbial Community Composition Regulates Coral Disease Development. PLoS Biology, 2010; 8 (3): e1000345 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1000345
  2. Elizabeth Whiteman. A Fatal Switch for Corals? PLoS Biology, 2010; 8 (3): e1000346 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1000346

Cite This Page:

Cornell University. "Computer model helps biologists understand how coral dies in warming waters." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 April 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100329203228.htm>.
Cornell University. (2010, April 12). Computer model helps biologists understand how coral dies in warming waters. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100329203228.htm
Cornell University. "Computer model helps biologists understand how coral dies in warming waters." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100329203228.htm (accessed December 21, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Lava on Track to Hit Hawaii Market

Raw: Lava on Track to Hit Hawaii Market

AP (Dec. 19, 2014) Lava from an active volcano on Hawaii's Big Island slowed slightly but stayed on track to hit a shopping center in the small town of Pahoa. (Dec. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Birds Might Be Better Meteorologists Than Us

Birds Might Be Better Meteorologists Than Us

Newsy (Dec. 19, 2014) A new study suggests a certain type of bird was able to sense a tornado outbreak that moved through the U.S. a day before it hit. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Dec. 18, 2014) The U.S. Navy unveils an underwater device that mimics the movement of a fish. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Arctic Warming Twice As Fast As Rest Of Planet

Arctic Warming Twice As Fast As Rest Of Planet

Newsy (Dec. 18, 2014) The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet, thanks in part to something called feedback. 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