A recent study shows that genetics plays a big role in corals’ ability to withstand high temperatures.
“If we can find populations most likely to resist climate change and map them, then we can protect them,” said Stanford Woods Institute Senior Fellow and director of Stanford’s Hopkins Marine Station, Stephen Palumbi. “It’s of paramount importance because climate change is coming.”
Palumbi and colleagues studied shallow-reef corals off Ofu Island in American Samoa where summer water temperatures often exceed 32 degrees Celsius (90 degrees Fahrenheit).
The researchers examined the gene expression when the corals were subjected to water heated to 35 degrees C (95 degrees F). They found that the corals from the shallow reef had their “heat stress genes” turned on before the experiment even began. The heat stress genes allow them to repair and even reduce damage from heat.
“It’s like already having your driver’s license and boarding pass out when you get close to the TSA screener at the airport, rather than starting to fumble through your wallet once you get to the front of the line,” Palumbi explained.
If you’ve ever wanted to know more about coral research, you have to watch this awesome short video where researcher Stephen Palumbi shows you exactly how these studies are done:
To learn more:
- Read the news release from Stanford: Heat-Resistant Corals Provide Clues to Climate Change Survival
- Find the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, here: Genomic basis for coral resilience to climate change
- Check out this article: What’s Killing Coral Reefs?
- And this one: What is Causing an Increase in Coral Disease in the Caribbean?
- And this one: Flexibility in Corals Not Always a Good Thing
Copyright © 2013 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.