Algae living within the soft tissue of coral supply much of the energy needed by their hosts, and some symbiotic algae help coral withstand warmer water better than others.
Algae living within the soft tissue of coral supply much of the energy needed by their hosts, and some symbiotic algae help coral withstand warmer water better than others. In a recently published study led by the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, researchers found that there was a tradeoff for corals dominated by the thermally sensitive algae—they have higher growth, but only in cooler water.
“As the ocean continues to warm, understanding how symbionts and environmental factors affect coral growth and health will help predict reef futures and inform conservation interventions where coral stocks are selected for specific traits or symbionts,” said Shayle Matsuda, a doctoral student at the Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology in the UH Mānoa School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology at the time of the research.
The study was co-led by Matsuda, now a postdoctoral fellow at the Shedd Aquarium, and Mariah Opalek, who conducted the experiment for her undergraduate thesis at UH Mānoa. The research team investigated whether rice corals hosting symbiotic algae that can tolerate warmer water may grow more slowly, which could impact survivorship and competition for space on the reef, compared to coral hosting symbionts that are more susceptible to bleaching when ocean waters warm.
Read more at University of Hawaii at Manoa
Image: Mariah Opalek tends to the coral experiment. (Credit: Shayle Matsuda via University of Hawaii at Manoa)