Study: Corals can switch skeletal material

Jul 06, 2006

U.S. marine geologists say they've determined corals can change their skeletons, using different minerals depending on the seawater's chemical composition.

Johns Hopkins University postdoctoral fellow Justin Ries and colleagues say the finding marks the first known case of an animal altering the composition of its skeleton in response to changes in its physical environment.

Ries says the aquatic animal's sensitivity to such changes poses questions about its evolutionary history, as well as the future of the ecologically important coral reefs that it builds, especially since seawater is changing in response to global warming and the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Reefs are large underwater structures of coral skeletons, made from calcium carbonate secreted by multiple generations of tiny coral polyps during periods ranging to millions of years.

The scientists showed corals can switch from using aragonite to another mineral, calcite, in making the calcium carbonate. They make that switch in response to decreases in the ratio of magnesium to calcium in seawater, Ries said. That ratio has changed dramatically over geologic time.

The research appears in the July issue of the journal Geology.

Copyright 2006 by United Press International

Explore further: Molecular gate that could keep cancer cells locked up

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Corals provide clues for climate change research

Jul 16, 2014

(Phys.org) —Just as growth rings can offer insight into climate changes occurring during the lifespan of a tree, corals have much to tell about changes in the ocean. At Caltech, climate scientists Jess ...

High-CO2 world threatens seabed life

Jun 20, 2014

Environmental change is transforming many parts of the north-east Atlantic seabed, and according to a newly-published paper this will almost certainly get worse in the coming decades.

Recommended for you

Molecular gate that could keep cancer cells locked up

1 hour ago

In a study published today in Genes & Development, Dr Christian Speck from the MRC Clinical Sciences Centre's DNA Replication group, in collaboration with Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), New York, ...

The 'memory' of starvation is in your genes

4 hours ago

During the winter of 1944, the Nazis blocked food supplies to the western Netherlands, creating a period of widespread famine and devastation. The impact of starvation on expectant mothers produced one of the first known ...

User comments : 0