How Some Corals Resist Bleaching Uncovered

How Some Corals Resist Bleaching Uncovered

More About Some Corals

To many people, coral reefs are those diversified beautiful ecosystems that engineer many a coastal community. Nevertheless, they are facing threats of extinction at worst and massive reduction at the very least. Thanks to the planet’s warming waters.

As at 2015, this threat already got to the extreme extent. High temperatures began turning green corals into white all over the globe. In Hawaii’s popular Kaneohe Bay, close to half of all its corals have already bleached.

In the aftermath of this extremism, there were biochemical clues as to why some of these corals bleached when the others proved to be more resistant. This information proves to be capable of helping coral reefs weather warming waters better in the nearest future.

To many who have watched the bleaching process, they say it is rather disheartening to watch. But instead of sulking over it, many take it as an opportunity and then, they are ready to dive deep into the ocean and explore.

Discoveries were made and one of them is in chemical signatures that can be found in the biological makeup of a coral.  This is otherwise known as biomarkers that are present in the organisms most resilient and resistant to coral bleaching. Understanding this would surely help researchers better protect and restore reefs all over the world.

Most times, biomarkers are thought of as disease signatures. However, they are, in fact, found out to be a signature of health rather. This knowledge could help researchers concentrate on reefs with the most resistant stock. 

Well, the communities corals reside in are symbiotic communities and they build animal cell homes for their algae partners which in turn provide them with their colours and energy. When corals then bleach, the algae becomes lost and leaves her partner (coral) with skeletons which are highly vulnerable to death at worst or stuck it with a disease.

This relationship of course plays a role in the resistance posed by some of these corals.  When coral reefs are 100 feet away, their researchers can say they are 30 seconds away, that’s the level of proximity in the study of these coral reefs.

After the bleaching event of 2015, teams made comparisons and contrasted the samples they got. They noted the way organisms recovered. This led to some interesting revelations. For example, corals that are neighbours could react in completely different ways when exposed to high temperature. Coral A could bleach completely while B maintains its healthiness.

In the quest to understand the why behind this mystery, another study was conducted with the submitted samples. The corals were then reported to be of completely different chemistry. A mass spec had to be run. And it was found out that corals that were more resilient and those that yielded to bleaching hosted different clusters of algae. What distinguishes these algal communities was discovered to be in their cell compound known as lipids.

This discovery is almost like the difference between a magazine and oil. While the former with higher saturated fat gets solid at room temperature, the latter does not react to such changes. That is the case for saturated lipids and unsaturated ones which influence the bleaching tendencies of corals.

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