Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Does the future of reefs belong to pulsating soft corals?

23.05.2013
ZMT scientists have made an interesting discovery in tropical coral reefs; soft corals of the Xeniidae family are becoming more and more widespread on these reefs. A peculiarity of these sessile animals is their pulsating movement – could this be the key to their success?
The feathery polyp tentacles of the xeniid soft corals open and shut like birds’ wings. These soft corals make pulsating movements – a rarity among sessile sea organisms. For a long time it was not known what purpose this continuous pulsation activity served – since it costs a lot of energy!

Recently, an Israeli research team of the University of Jerusalem published striking findings on this pulsating movement in the journal PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA). Reef ecologists of the Leibniz Center for Tropical Marine Ecology – ZMT have now commented on these findings in PNAS, placing them in a broader ecological context. They come to a surprising prognosis on how tropical coral reefs may develop in the future.

The Israeli researchers describe two main benefits of the pulsating movement for xeniid soft corals. With the aid of their symbiotic algae these tropical corals perform photosynthesis to gain energy. Here, oxygen is produced, which through the pulsating movement is effectively transported out of the coral tissue, where oxygen enrichment would inhibit the CO2 fixation. The movements also help ensure that nutrients in the water are better distributed to all polyps. According to calculations made by the Israeli researchers, the energy investment for the pulsating movement amounts to a maximum of 56% of the gained energy. That is an economically sound deal.

For comparison, the Bremen reef ecologists Christian Wild and Malik Naumann examined two additional organisms that likewise live on the seabed of coral reefs and also exhibit body movements: the pumping mangrove jellyfish Cassiopea and the contracting unicellular ciliate colony of the genus Zoothamnium. All of these have in common the symbiosis with microorganisms. The researchers came to the conclusion that the active body movements of all three organisms generate considerable advantages for their metabolism and food supply – and ultimately probably affect growth positively.

Yet, another effect of pulsation could be of great importance; during photosynthesis, reactive oxygen radicals are also produced, which are very harmful for the metabolism of the corals. In the course of ocean warming, oxygen radicals induce corals to release their symbiotic algae, in turn causing the corals to bleach and often to die. Through pulsation, the radicals are probably transported away effectively. The Bremen researchers consider it very likely that pulsating soft corals are therefore particularly resistant to coral bleaching.

Such robustness and the favourable energy balance create a significant competitive advantage for soft corals in the reef. “Worldwide, you can now often see that there is a transition in coral reefs from stony corals, which were once dominant, to soft corals,” said Christian Wild. “However, stony corals are important ecosystem engineers, which regulate the functioning of the entire reef via the production of limestone structures and the release of organic substances such as carbohydrates and mucus.” The Bremen researchers suggest that material cycles in the reef could shift significantly, with negative consequences for the valuable characteristics of coral reefs.

Published in:
Wild C., Naumann M.S. (2013) Effect of active water movement on energy and nutrient acquisition in coral reef-associated benthic organisms. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA

Contact:
Prof. Dr. Christian Wild
Leibniz Center for Tropical Marine Ecology
Tel: 0421 / 23800 – 114
Mail: christian.wildzmt-bremen.de

Dr. Malik Naumann
Leibniz Center for Tropical Marine Ecology
Tel: 0421 / 23800 – 119
Mail: malik.naumannzmt-bremen.de

Dr. Susanne Eickhoff | idw
Further information:
http://www.zmt-bremen.de

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Preservation of floodplains is flood protection
27.09.2017 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Conservationists are sounding the alarm: parrots much more threatened than assumed
15.09.2017 | Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Rapid environmental change makes species more vulnerable to extinction

19.10.2017 | Life Sciences

Integrated lab-on-a-chip uses smartphone to quickly detect multiple pathogens

19.10.2017 | Interdisciplinary Research

Fossil coral reefs show sea level rose in bursts during last warming

19.10.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>