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For corals adapting to climate change, it's survival of the fattest -- and most flexible
Date:7/8/2014

in a row, they plucked samples of Porites divaricata, Porites astreoides, and Orbicella faveolatamore commonly known as finger coral, mustard hill coral, and boulder coralfrom the ocean floor, and placed them in warm water tanks in an outdoor lab until the corals bleached. Both times, the researchers returned the corals to the ocean to let them recover. They measured several indicators of how well the different species recovered, including the number and type of algae present in the corals' cells and remaining energy reserve.

The mustard hill coral kept lower fat reserves, and partnered with only one algal species. It recovered from the first round of bleaching but not the second. The boulder coral kept moderate fat reserves, but partnered with six different algae and changed between dominant algal types following each bleaching. It recovered from both rounds of bleaching, though it's growth slowed.

The real winner was the finger coral, which switched completely from one algal partner type to another over the course of the study, and had the largest fat reserves47 percent higher than the boulder coral or mustard hill coral. The finger coral was barely even affected by the second bleaching and maintained a healthy growth rate.

The bottom line: as some species adapt to climate change and others don't, there will be less diversity in reefs, where all the different sizes and shapes of coral provide specialized habitats for fish and other creatures. Interactions among hosts, symbionts, predators and prey would all change in a domino effect, Grottoli said. Reefs would be more vulnerable to storms and disease in general.

It sounds like a bleak picture.

"We're actually a bit optimistic, because we showed that there's acclimation in a one-year window, that it's possible," she said. "In two of our three coral species, we have recovery in six weeks. The paths they took to recovery are different, but they both g
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Contact: Pam Frost Gorder
gorder.1@osu.edu
614-292-9475
Ohio State University
Source:Eurekalert  

Page: 1 2 3 4

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For corals adapting to climate change, it's survival of the fattest -- and most flexible
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