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How the purple and pink sunscreens of reef corals work
Date:1/23/2013

mulate exceptionally high amounts of chromoproteins in growing areas, such as branch tips or in the region of healing wounds.

Dr Wiedenmann, who is based at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, explains: "These growing areas contain essentially no symbiotic algae, so much of the light is reflected by the white coral skeleton instead of being used by the algae. The resulting increased light intensities in the new parts of the coral represent a potential danger for the algal cells that need to colonise these areas. Hence, it seems that the corals use a clever trick to help their symbionts. The higher light intensity switches on the genes that are responsible for the production of the sunscreening chromoproteins.

"Our results suggest that the screening effect of the chromoproteins could help the algae to enter the new tissue. Once the symbiont population is fully established, the light levels in the tissue decrease as the algae use most of the light for photosynthesis. As a consequence, the genes of the chromoproteins are switched off again which allows the coral to save the energy required for their production."

The research contributes to a better understanding of the coral's response to environmental stress. Knowledge of the stress resilience of corals is an important requirement to help predictions of the fate of coral reefs that are exposed to climate change and various forms of anthropogenic disturbance.


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Contact: Glenn Harris
G.Harris@soton.ac.uk
44-023-805-93212
University of Southampton
Source:Eurekalert  

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