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Coral Bleaching Caught on Camera

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Coral researchers have for the first time captured the specific behaviour of a coral as it’s bleaching.

The team from Queensland University of Technology used a clever combination of microscope, digital camera and smart tablet to record close-up, detailed time-lapse videos of a coral species’ physical reaction to heat stress, showing evidence for the first time that it employs pulsed inflation.

To simulate rising sea surface temperatures, researchers Brett Lewis and Dr Luke Nothdurft from QUT’s marine facility in the School of Earth, Environmental and Biological Sciences placed solitary corals, Heliofungia actiniformis, into controlled aquaria, before heating the water up.

Their resulting videos, described in the peer-reviewed Coral Reefs, show the unhappy corals belching Symbiodinium, tiny algae cells that live within coral tissue and give corals their vibrant colours.

“What’s really interesting is just how quickly and violently the coral forcefully evicted its resident symbionts," said Mr Lewis, from QUT’s Science and Engineering Faculty.

“The H. actiniformis began ejecting the symbionts within the first two hours of us raising the water temperature of the system.”

Mr Lewis said previous studied had...

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