Classifying corals in terms of species is a risky business. Biologist Onno Diekmann from the University of Groningen has discovered that four species of stone corals differ so little in terms of their genetic material that they can scarcely be termed separate species.
Corals are formed by a collection of identical coral polyps which together form a coral colony. Onno Diekmann compared the genetic material from six different species of coral from the Madracis genus, which are found in the coral reefs around Curaçao. The coral exists in many different physical forms. There are knobby, branched and crust-forming colonies. The corals grow at depths varying from 2 to 70 metres. The external appearance is partly determined by the environmental conditions, such as temperature, water movements and the amount of available light. Therefore, it is difficult to determine if two coral colonies belong to the same species, if only the external appearance is used.
Two forms of Madracis were found to be clearly distinct species. Yet four other species exhibited a considerable overlap in the genetic variation. Therefore, which of the four species these corals belong to cannot be determined with any certainty. The spectrum of intermediate forms indicates that these four species can interbreed. However, the four species do differ in their physical appearance. In addition to the colony form there are also smaller characteristics where differences might be exhibited. Yet none of the individual microcharacteristics can be used to unequivocally determine which species an individual coral belongs to. For this several characteristics need to be analysed at the same time.
Nalinie Moerlie | EurekAlert!
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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.
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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.
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