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Promiscuity May Help Corals Survive Bleaching

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Researchers have shown for the first time that some corals surviving bleaching events can acquire and host new types of algae from their environment, which may make the coral more heat-tolerant and enhance their recovery.

Published in the Multidisciplinary Journal of Microbial Ecology (http://www.nature.com/ismej/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/ismej201654a.html), the research was led by Southern Cross University postgraduate student Ms Nadine Boulotte and included scientists from SCU’s Marine Ecology Research Centre, the University of Melbourne, the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) and the University of Hawai’i.

“This new study may be a game changer in our understanding of corals that build reefs,” Ms Boulotte said. “Most corals were previously believed to only acquire microalgae in their juvenile stage, and to house the same algae types for their lifetime.

“Our study shows for the first time that some adult corals can be promiscuous, and swap their algal partners later in life. This algae partner-swapping could help corals to better adapt to climate change and survive bleaching events if they can acquire more heat-tolerant microalgae.”

Coral bleaching occurs when the...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.