Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Widespread adaptability: Coral reefs may be able to adapt to climate change with help from algae

Date:
April 11, 2012
Source:
University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science
Summary:
Large-scale global survey of corals using high sensitivity genetic analysis shows many coral species can host multiple algal symbionts -- including some thought to help survive warming oceans.

A new study suggests that many species of reef-building corals may be able to adapt to warming waters by relying on their closest aquatic partners -- algae.
Credit: vlad61_61 / Fotolia

A new study by scientists at the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science suggests that many species of reef-building corals may be able to adapt to warming waters by relying on their closest aquatic partners -- algae. The corals' ability to host a variety of algal types, each with different sensitivities to environmental stress, could offer a much-needed lifeline in the face of global climate change.

Related Articles


Using a highly sensitive genetic technique, Ph.D. student Rachel Silverstein analyzed 39 coral species from DNA collected in the Indo-Pacific and Caribbean collected over the last 15 years. Most of these species had not previously been thought capable of hosting more than one type of the single-celled symbiotic algae, called zooxanthellae, which live inside the coral and help to supply them with energy.

Silverstein's results revealed that at least one colony of all 39 species tested had at least two varieties of algae, including one thought to be heat tolerant. Over half of the species were found to associate with all four of the major types of algae found in corals.

"This study shows that more coral species are able to host multiple algal symbionts than we previously thought," said Andrew Baker, associate professor at UM's Rosenstiel School and co-author of the study. "The fact that they all seem to be capable of hosting symbionts that might help them survive warmer temperatures suggests they have hidden potential that was once thought to be confined to just a few special species."

More than 10 years ago, Baker was one of the first scientists to suggest that the ability of corals to associate with diverse algal symbionts may be one mechanism by which they are able to rapidly respond to environmental changes, such as increased ocean temperatures due to climate change.

"Although our study shows that different coral species do tend to have preferences in their algal partners, the fact that these preferences are not absolutely rigid means that we cannot ignore the possibility that most corals might change partners in response to environmental changes in the future," said Silverstein.

Globally, reefs have lost more than 70 percent of their corals as a result of pollution, disease, overfishing, and climate change. Increased temperatures cause coral "bleaching," in which corals expel their algal partners, turn pale, and often die. However, some symbionts can resist bleaching in warmer waters and may help the corals survive during stress. The ability to host multiple symbionts may help save coral reefs from future losses during expected ocean temperatures increases of 2-4 degrees Celsius (3-7 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100.

"These new findings should encourage us to find better ways to protect coral reef ecosystems from overfishing, pollution and habitat destruction, and buy us some time to avoid the worst climate change scenarios," said Baker, who is also a research associate of the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York.

The study was published in the online edition of the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Adrienne Correa, a former UM Rosenstiel School student of Baker's and a current postdoc at Oregon State University, is a co-author on the study, as well. The U.S. National Science Foundation, the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Lenfest Ocean Program and Pew Fellows Program in Marine Conservation funded the study.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. R. N. Silverstein, A. M. S. Correa, A. C. Baker. Specificity is rarely absolute in coral-algal symbiosis: implications for coral response to climate change. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2012; DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2012.0055

Cite This Page:

University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science. "Widespread adaptability: Coral reefs may be able to adapt to climate change with help from algae." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 April 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120411084131.htm>.
University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science. (2012, April 11). Widespread adaptability: Coral reefs may be able to adapt to climate change with help from algae. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120411084131.htm
University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science. "Widespread adaptability: Coral reefs may be able to adapt to climate change with help from algae." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120411084131.htm (accessed December 20, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Saturday, December 20, 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