Algal species help corals survive in extreme heat

London, March 1:

A new species of algae has been discovered in the coral reefs of the Persian Gulf that helps corals to survive seawater temperatures of up to 36 degrees Celsius.

rp_coral_garden1.jpgSuch a high temperatures would kill corals elsewhere.

The new species is named Symbiodinium thermophilum in reference to its ability to survive unusually high temperatures.

“Understanding how corals survive under the extreme temperatures in the Gulf will give us important insights into the ability of reef corals to handle the heat stress, which is threatening their survival in the oceans that are warming up in response to climate change,” said Jorg Wiedenmann from the University of Southampton in Britain.

Coral reefs consist of many coral species that live in a mutually beneficial relationship with very small algae hosted in their tissue.

These symbiont algae produce sugars that contribute to the diet of the coral in return for shelter and nutrients.

“We monitored the symbiotic partnership over several seasons to ensure that this association was stable through a range of thermal conditions,” added professor John Burt from New York University Abu Dhabi.

“We can confirm that this new type of alga is indeed the year-round prevalent symbiont across several dominant coral species from the Abu Dhabi coast of the United Arab Emirates,” Burt said.

“It gives hope to find that corals have more ways to adjust to stressful environmental conditions than we had previously thought,” Wiedenmann added.

The paper was published in the journal Scientific Reports. IANS

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