11 February 2013

Corals' retort to climate change

Climate change has been a trending topic even before former vice-president Al Gore's documentary film entitled An Incovenient Truth became a box-office hit. This film only suggested what humans can do to counteract climate change. But then, we are not the sole inhabitants of the planet. Other species must also have mechanisms that will protect them from the impending climate change.

Corals are solely responsible for the multicolored scenery you see in the ocean. They build dense and varied coral reefs where fishes, invertebrates and algae inhabit, hence their importance. Unfortunately, several environmental stresses such as pollution, coral bleaching, rise in both temperature and acidity (i.e., climate change) have destroyed some of them. So how do they respond to the ongoing climate change?

Photograph taken from Balitian Reef, Mabini, Batangas by Dr. Maria Lourdes Palomares

A recent genomic study by Barshis and his colleagues on two populations of Acropora hyacinthus using cutting edge DNA sequencing technology revealed that 60 heat stress genes were already "turned on" before the heat stress was applied [1]. This explains how they are able to survive the waters of American Samoa that can get hotter than 32° Celsius during summer-time low tides [2]. A very timely trait, don't you think so?

To learn more about the behavior of corals, visit SeaLifeBase

“Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.” ― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

[1] Barshis, D.J., J.T. Ladner, T.A. Oliver, F.O. Seneca, N. Traylor-Knowles, and S.R. Palumbi. 2013. Genomic basis for coral resilience to climate changeProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 110(4):1387-1392.
[2] Science Daily. Heat-resistant corals provide clues to climate change survival. Posted on January 7, 2013.

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