Ocean sampling yields environmental sources of coral symbionts

Dec 04, 2006

By sampling different ocean locations for the presence of an elusive but critical group of algae, researchers have gained new insight into the dwelling places of the symbiotic organisms that reef corals need for survival.

In response to environmental stresses, coral reefs around the world are in a decline due in large part to coral bleaching—loss of the symbiotic photosynthetic algae that live within corals and provide much of their energy. These symbiotic algae are essential to their host’s survival, but many corals must acquire their symbionts anew with the emergence of each generation. However, it has remained unclear how newly settled coral polyps acquire their symbionts in the ocean.

Organisms that resemble coral symbionts—dinoflagellates that are similar to those of the Symbiodinium genus that grow within corals—have been isolated from both sand and the water column; however, neither the locations of these populations nor their ability to establish symbioses is known. For both our understanding of reef ecosystems and their conservation, it is critical to recognize where these symbionts reside in the ocean environment.

In the new work, the researchers succeeded in identifying Symbiodinium in the water column as well as on ocean-bottom substrates. Most importantly, the researchers also demonstrated that a subset of Symbiodinium found in the water and on benthic substrates (that is, on algae and sediments) can infect new coral polyps. These isolates are therefore capable of establishing symbioses with corals and thus point to environmental sources of symbionts that may prove important in the recovery of reef-building corals after bleaching events.

Source: Cell Press

Explore further: Study blames global warming for 75 percent of very hot days

Related Stories

Recipe for saving coral reefs: Add more fish

Apr 08, 2015

Fish are the key ingredients in a new recipe to diagnose and restore degraded coral reef ecosystems, according to scientists from the Australian Institute of Marine Science, WCS, James Cook University, and ...

Study provides detailed projections of coral bleaching

Apr 01, 2015

While research shows that nearly all coral reef locations in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico will experience bleaching by mid-century, a new study showing in detail when and where bleaching will occur shows ...

Recommended for you

Flood disaster risk is more complex than expected

46 minutes ago

Research from the University of Adelaide has shed further light on the complex issue of flood risk, with the latest findings showing the potential for flood risk to both increase and decrease in the same ...

Groups want review of Shell's Arctic regulatory filings

3 hours ago

Two groups petitioned the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday for an investigation of Royal Dutch Shell PLC and what the groups call misstatements in regulatory filings regarding the risk of a catastrophic oil ...

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.