by B. Bruno, May 22, 2020 in ClimateChangeDispatch
Some coral reefs are adapting to warming ocean temperatures by making their own sunscreen in the form of bright neon colors — a strategy that invites coral animals to return to reefs and is seen as a critical adaptation to maintain healthy coral reefs around the world.
In a study published Thursday in the journal Current Biology, researchers at the University of Southampton detail a series of controlled laboratory experiments they conducted at their coral aquarium facility.
In the experiments, “colorful” coral bleaching events cause coral to produce a layer of vibrant sunscreen which encourages the coral animals vital to a mutually beneficial “symbiosis” relationship to return to coral habitats they abandon due to the effects of warming oceans.
The colorful adaptation could prove vital for overcoming the fatal coral bleaching incidents that have threatened coral reefs worldwide.
But the colorful coral bleaching – rather than the white skeleton exposure of common coral bleaching events – is believed to take place due to mild ocean warming or disturbances in their nutrient environment, rather than extreme events.
Colorful bleaching occurred between this past March and April in some areas of the Great Barrier Reef, suggesting some patches of the world’s largest reef system may have better recovery prospects than others.