Scientists to unlock Great Barrier Reef genome

July 30, 2009
This file photo shows the 345,000-square-kilometre Great Barrier Reef which runs along the northeastern coast of Australia. Australian scientists have announced a ground-breaking genome-mapping project that could help the Great Barrier Reef fight off the twin threats of climate change and toxic farm chemicals.

Australian scientists on Thursday announced a ground-breaking genome-mapping project that could help the Great Barrier Reef fight off the twin threats of climate change and toxic farm chemicals.

Geneticists said they would unlock the secrets of the colourful 'acropora millepora' coral, one of the main components of the northeastern tourist attraction, the growth of which has slowed markedly in recent years.

"This gene-mapping project has both practical and scientific significance," said professor David Miller of Australia's Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and James Cook University.

"It will help us to understand how corals build reefs -- and why they fail to do so when they are under stress."

The project, Australia's first attempt to gene-sequence a complex animal, is expected to yield insights into why the Reef's growth has been hampered by warmer sea temperatures and chemical run-off.

The World Heritage-listed, 345,000-square-kilometre (133,000-square-mile) reef is one of Australia's top attractions and has been short-listed in a competition to find the world's seven natural wonders.

However, the reef has come under growing threat from and chemical run-off with Australia announcing a crackdown in January on farmers who let pesticides and fertilisers leak into the sea.

(c) 2009 AFP

Explore further: Scientists: Great Barrier Reef in danger

Related Stories

Larry's cool change good for reef

March 22, 2006

Cyclone Larry has been a nightmare on land but underwater, it may have helped save the Great Barrier Reef from disaster. University of Queensland coral reef expert Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg said Larry's wind had cooled ...

Ongoing collapse of coral reef shark populations

December 4, 2006

Investigators have revealed that coral reef shark populations are in the midst of rapid decline, and that "no-take zones" -- reefs where fishing is prohibited -- do protect sharks, but only when compliance with no-take regulations ...

Save our reef, save our heritage

July 19, 2007

Protecting the Great Barrier Reef from the impacts of climate change, natural disasters and rising human pressures will be a key test of Australia’s ability to keep our natural environment healthy and resilient.

Starfish strike at coral kingdom

January 16, 2008

Outbreaks of the notorious crown of thorns starfish now threaten the “coral triangle” – the richest center of coral reef biodiversity on Earth. That’s the finding of recent scientific surveys by the ARC Centre of ...

Recommended for you

Huddling rats behave as a 'super-organism'

September 3, 2015

Rodents huddle together when it is cold, they separate when it is warm, and at moderate temperatures they cycle between the warm center and the cold edges of the group. In a new study published in PLOS Computational Biology, ...

Fighting explosives pollution with plants

September 3, 2015

Biologists at the University of York have taken an important step in making it possible to clean millions of hectares of land contaminated by explosives.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.