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Clues in coral bleaching mystery
Date:9/5/2013

exist. This work suggests the existence of potentially novel mechanisms associated with coral bleaching. A mechanistic understanding of bleaching is critical for developing strategies to mitigate or eliminate the problem of coral decline.

The process of coral bleaching in the dark at elevated temperaturesand perhaps also in response to other stress conditionscould be a potential advantage to corals.

Grossman explains: "One theory that we are exploring is that under heat-stress conditions the corals eject the algal symbionts at night in order to avoid the production and accumulation of photosynthetically-derived toxic oxygen molecules during the day. If such molecules were to accumulate, they would threaten the viability of both the alga and its host."

The team's study also suggest that certain strategies proposed to protect reefs, such as shading the corals from high light, may not prevent high temperature-triggered bleaching (because bleaching would still occur in the dark). Clearly there is a need for more thorough molecular analyses to establish the various molecular causes of the bleaching processes.

Additionally, Grossman and Tolleter's work revealed some key details, such as the breakdown of specific parts of the photosynthetic apparatus when the corals are stressed. This process can be monitored and may potentially serve to evaluate the health of the reef and the risk of bleaching and death.


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Contact: Arthur Grossman
agrossman@carnegiescience.edu
650-325-1521 x212
Carnegie Institution
Source:Eurekalert

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