Newly discovered mechanism in corals may help coral recovery

Newly discovered mechanism in corals may help coral recovery

about the episode

Anyone who has dived or snorkeled in places like the Great Barrier Reef twenty years ago and would do so again now will immediately see the huge differences. Coral reefs around the world are in poor condition. They are vanishing, many species are having a hard time adapting to current warming and ocean acidification and in some places coral reefs have been badly damaged – by us – to repair themselves.

So scientists around the world are working to preserve and restore coral. Researchers from the United States have turned their attention to the relationship between corals and the algae they live with. These algae live in coral cells, where they convert the sun’s energy into food. They return a portion of those nutrients to the coral.

In a new study, they show what happens at the beginning of this collaboration. The coral releases a protein — called LePin — into the mouth that binds to friendly algae that pass through it. Thus, algae are, as it were, classified and subsequently absorbed.

Now that they know this, the researchers hope to use the mechanism to help corals in need. Not all coral species have proven to be good at absorbing algae that can withstand heat and acidification, while in other species these algae ensure that they can better cope with existing conditions.

It is possible that vulnerable coral species have adapted in such a way that these algae can be properly recognized, differentiated, and absorbed.

Read more about the search here: Corals indicate ingestion-friendly algae—revealing a potential conservation target.

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