Some Corals Might Survive Global Warming

STATE COLLEGE, Pa., Feb. 15 (UPI) — A U.S.-led team of scientists says corals harboring unusual species of symbiotic algae might survive global warming in water too warm for most other corals.

The team, led by Pennsylvania State University Assistant Professor Todd LaJeunesse, said researchers surveyed the Indian Ocean and the Great Barrier Reef area of Australia and discovered a diversity of corals harboring unusual species of symbiotic algae in the warm waters of the Andaman Sea in the northeastern Indian Ocean.

“The existence of so many novel coral symbioses thriving in a place that is too warm for most corals gives us hope that coral reefs and the ecosystems they support may persist — at least in some places — in the face of global warming,” said LaJeunesse.

In the Andaman Sea, the scientists found a variety of seemingly thermally tolerant algae species, with one species being particularly abundant. Called Symbiodinium trenchi, the species is a generalist organism — one that is able to associate with a variety of hosts.

LaJeunesse found corals harboring that symbiont appear to be tolerant of high heat. He said Symbiodinium trenchi apparently saved certain colonies of coral from the damaging effects of unusually warm water.

The team’s findings are reported in the early online edition of the Journal of Biogeography.

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