Coral Reef Research Paper
Amino acids in the polyp dictate the upper level of ultra-violet (UV) toleration. There is also unconfirmed evidence that a chain of biochemical events may cause colony polyps to expel their endo-symbionts, in effect killing themselves.
“The insidious thing about climate change is there’s nowhere to hide from it,” says Prof Terry Hughes, director of the Australian Research Council's Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University in Townsville, a sleepy city in northern Queensland where even the winter sun beats down at 31C.
Reef-building corals and their associated zooxanthellae are particularly sensitive to their environments.
They tolerate a sustained temperature range of only 25-29 degrees Celsius.
Recent and repeated mass bleaching events have raised widespread concern about the future of these key ecosystems and the implications that their loss could have for biodiversity, the economy, and human health.
Large-scale observations of the Great Barrier Reef first began in the late 1970s.
Coral is the common collective name for a large class of marine invertebrate polyps with six or eight tentacles.
All reef-building coral species enjoy a symbiotic relationship with species of algae called zooxanthellae.
Residing within the coral polyps’ tissues, these photosynthetic one-celled plants are the ultimate source of the energy for the polyp to produce and exude calcium carbonate.
By investigating cores extracted from corals hundreds of years old, the researchers were able to reconstruct the unique history of the bleaching events each coral had survived.
Dr Nick Kamenos of the University of Glasgow’s School of Geographical and Earth Sciences is one of the paper’s co-authors.