The research shows, for the first time, that while hard corals can take up from the environment new stress-tolerant algae that provide critical nutrients, the coral may not be able to sustain the relationship with these algae over a long period, a process known as symbiosis.
The findings may mean that certain types of coral will not be able to adapt rapidly enough to survive global warming, says the study’s lead author, Mary Alice Coffroth, PhD, UB professor of geological sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences.
“Our findings suggest that not all corals can maintain a long-term symbiosis with these stress-tolerant strains of algae,” says Mary Alice Coffroth, PhD, UB professor of geological sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences and lead author.
“That’s the problem,” she says, “if they can’t take up the stress-tolerant symbionts, or if they take them up but can’t maintain the symbiosis with them, as we found, then they likely won’t be able to adapt rapidly enough to survive global warming.”
The demise of coral reefs deprives fish of food and shelter, which reduces reef fish populations and marine diversity.
Co-authors on the paper include Eleni L. Petrou, a recent UB Honors College undergraduate who worked in Coffroth’s lab as well as Daniel M. Poland, a recent PhD graduate and Jennie C. Holmberg, a former graduate student, both of whom worked in Coffroth’s lab, and Daniel A. Brazeau, research associate professor in UB’s Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences.
During the past two decades, Coffroth explains, coral reefs, known as the rain forests of the sea for their incredible biological diversity, have suffered bleaching events due to high water temperatures and light levels that cause them to literally “spit out” their algal symbionts, which provide their sustenance. Severe bleaching can lead to coral death.
In recent years, though, it has been reported that some corals appear to respond to rising sea temperatures by acquiring new stress-tolerant symbionts from the environment, which could allow them to survive the warmer oceans caused by climate change.
Coffroth says that the UB research shows that while the corals they studied were able to acquire new stress-tolerant symbiont strains from the water, they were unable to maintain that symbiosis for very long.
After about five weeks, the proportion of new symbionts within the coral had declined dramatically and after 14 weeks was no longer detectable in the corals.
“While it’s true that coral can be flexible in the kinds of symbionts they take up, that will only work within limits,” she says. “It’s possible that the new symbionts were either unable to multiply in the host or to compete with the existing residual populations of symbionts in the coral.
“Our findings suggest that if a coral that doesn’t naturally host this kind of stress-tolerant symbiont, it cannot acquire it from the environment.”
She noted that the outlook may be more promising for corals that naturally harbor the stress-resistant symbionts. These symbionts appear to be able to protect corals from sea temperatures that are one-to-two degrees higher than normal; however, Coffroth cautions that most estimates predict that by 2100 global warming will cause sea temperatures to rise by as much as two-to six-degrees above current temperatures.
The UB researchers studied Porites divaricata, a common shallow-water scleractinian coral found throughout the Caribbean.
The coral samples were retrieved from a site within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary; in the laboratory, the scientists induced bleaching by exposing the coral to incremental increases in water temperatures until it reached 33 degrees C, about 91 degrees F.
The research was funded by the National Science Foundation and a grant from the UB Honors College Research and Creative Activities Fund.
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.
Ellen Goldbaum | Newswise Science News
Scientists team up on study to save endangered African penguins
16.11.2017 | Florida Atlantic University
Climate change: Urban trees are growing faster worldwide
13.11.2017 | Technische Universität München
The WHO reports an estimated 429,000 malaria deaths each year. The disease mostly affects tropical and subtropical regions and in particular the African continent. The Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC teamed up with the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME and the Institute of Tropical Medicine at the University of Tübingen for a new test method to detect malaria parasites in blood. The idea of the research project “NanoFRET” is to develop a highly sensitive and reliable rapid diagnostic test so that patient treatment can begin as early as possible.
Malaria is caused by parasites transmitted by mosquito bite. The most dangerous form of malaria is malaria tropica. Left untreated, it is fatal in most cases....
The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.
Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...
Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.
That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...
Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.
During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....
The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.
Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...
15.11.2017 | Event News
15.11.2017 | Event News
30.10.2017 | Event News
21.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
21.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
21.11.2017 | Life Sciences