Discovery of the Jekyll-and-Hyde factors in 'coral bleaching'

Dec 02, 2009
The white areas on this coral are a result of bleaching. Scientists are reporting progress toward understanding how this harmful process occurs. Credit: National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration

Scientists are reporting the first identification of substances involved in the Jekyll-and-Hyde transformation that changes harmless marine bacteria into killers that cause "coral bleaching." Their study appears in ACS' Environmental Science & Technology.

Dan Bearden and colleagues note that bleaching already has destroyed up to 30 percent of the world's reefs, and scientists are searching for ways to slow or stop the damage. One known culprit is an ocean-dwelling bacterium, Vibrio coralliilyticus (V. coralliilyticus) that chokes-off corals' energy supply and kills these shell-clad marine animals.

At lower temperatures, the bacteria are harmless to coral. But at warmer temperatures (above 75 degrees Fahrenheit) the bacteria become virulent and can kill coral.

The new study reports identification of three chemicals — betaine, glutamate, and succinate — that V. coralliilyticus produces in warmer water and are involved in the transformation. The discovery opens the door to understanding the biology involved in the complex interactions between corals and and unraveling the mystery of coral bleaching, the scientists indicated.

More information: "NMR-Based Microbial Metabolomics and the Temperature-Dependent Coral Pathogen Vibrio coralliilyticus", & Technology,
pubs.acs.org/stoken/presspac/p… ll/10.1021/es901675w

Source: American Chemical Society (news : web)

Explore further: Global warming blamed for Pacific coral bleaching

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Coral bleaching increases chances of coral disease

Oct 01, 2009

Mass coral bleaching has devastated coral colonies around the world for almost three decades. Now scientists have found that bleaching can make corals more susceptible to disease and, in turn, coral disease ...

Study finds seasonal seas save corals with 'tough love'

Nov 29, 2007

Finally, some good news about the prospects of coral reefs in the age of climate change. According to a new study by the Wildlife Conservation Society, corals may actually survive rising ocean temperatures ...

Recommended for you

Rising anger as Nicaragua canal to break ground

16 hours ago

As a conscripted soldier during the Contra War of the 1980s, Esteban Ruiz used to flee from battles because he didn't want to have to kill anyone. But now, as the 47-year-old farmer prepares to fight for ...

Hopes, fears, doubts surround Cuba's oil future

Dec 20, 2014

One of the most prolific oil and gas basins on the planet sits just off Cuba's northwest coast, and the thaw in relations with the United States is giving rise to hopes that Cuba can now get in on the action.

User comments : 0

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.