Corals might learn to adapt to warmer seas


TANTALISING evidence suggests coral can be trained to withstand rising sea temperatures. Mauricio Rodriguez-Lanetty at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette found that Acropora millepora coral, which typically lives at 21 to 22 °C, experienced significant bleaching when held at 31 °C for eight days. But the coral could survive without bleaching if first held at 28 °C for 10 days. Some researchers think that coral might adapt to hotter water by switching its algae or symbiotic bacteria to heat tolerant types – but that would take more than 10 days. Rodriguez-Lanetty used genetic sequencing to show no such changes occurred (Proceedings of the Royal Society B, DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2011.1780). However, it’s unclear whether the heat tolerance is permanent. “Corals still face a gloomy future unless we stop global warming,” says Rodriguez-Lanetty. More on these topics:
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