Coral species have genetic subgroups that possess extraordinary tolerance to intense heat.

The frequency and intensity of marine heat waves are increasing due to the warming of the oceans, which is wreaking havoc on coral reefs.

Tropical corals are sensitive to high temperatures and show a stress response known as bleaching when ocean temperatures rise.

These corals live in symbiosis with tiny unicellular algae. Millions of corals have died as a result of widespread bleaching from marine heat waves over the past 40 years.

Because of this, reefs that can withstand heat stress, withstand future warming, and serve as sources of heat-tolerant coral larvae to replenish affected areas naturally and through restoration are sought after on a global scale.

Palau’s Rock Islands are home to heat-resistant corals

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(Photo: PEDRO PARDO/AFP via Getty Images)

Researchers have now discovered genetic subgroups of a common coral species that exhibit remarkable tolerance to the intense heat associated with marine heat waves, according to daily science.

Palau is an archipelago in the western tropical Pacific where reefs are being studied.

The researchers also found evidence that these coral larvae are migrating from their birthplaces in the depths of Palau’s lagoons to the outer reef, where they can survive, grow, and maintain their heat tolerance.

Researchers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) say that a better understanding of the underlying mechanisms that allow these corals to tolerate heat, as well as the dispersal abilities of coral larvae, will significantly improve conservation and restoration efforts for the corals. coral reefs in the ocean of the twenty-first century.

The Rock Islands are a group of mountains that were formed by the uplift of a network of ancient fossilized reefs in Palau’s main lagoon.

These formations create localized environments where water temperatures are consistently higher than other regions of Palau’s reefs because they slow the flow of water through and around them.

Scientists from across Palau, including the Rocky Islands, sampled Porites lobata (lobe coral), a keystone species.

They took skeletal biopsies and checked the cores for stress bands, which are telltale indicators of coral bleaching, which is a stress response to high temperatures.

They found that corals on the Rock Islands bleached less than corals on other parts of the reef during the 1998 extreme heat wave, indicating greater thermal tolerance.

Surprisingly, the researchers found that the LB lineage was not unique to Rock Islands. On the comparatively cooler outer reefs, they also discovered some LB colonies.

These colonies maintained the thermal tolerance exhibited by their relatives on the Rocky Islands, as evidenced by the fact that an examination of their bleaching history once again showed fewer stress bands.

According to the researchers’ paper “Palau’s warmer reefs support thermally tolerant corals that thrive in different habitats,” which was published in Communications Biology, a journal published by Nature, this suggests that the Rocky Islands provide naturally tolerant larvae to areas surrounding.

Reef survival in the face of climate change in the 21st century depends on locating and protecting such thermally tolerant coral sources.

Read more: Corals experiencing heat stress are more likely to tolerate high water temperatures

Understanding heat tolerance in corals

The Great Barrier Reef is home to hundreds of different species of coral, each of which has a unique genetic makeup, according to The Great Barrier Reef Foundation.

The researchers are mapping the locations of corals that can withstand more heat and identifying the genes responsible for this tolerance.

This is accomplished by removing small pieces of healthy coral from the reef and placing them in aquarium tanks with warmer water or more light.

A rapid heat stress test like this allows scientists to see how a specific coral responds to heat stress, for example, if it bleaches and at what temperature.

The DNA of the algae living within each coral fragment is also extracted and sequenced. This allows researchers to identify genes associated with heat tolerance that will be passed on to future generations.

We are aware that corals cannot adapt fast enough to increased summer marine heat waves on the Great Barrier Reef or increased water temperatures caused by climate change.

To better withstand the ongoing and increasing stress caused by climate change, the heat tolerance and resilience of corals must be increased.

Based on research, there are several ways we could unlock and speed up heat tolerance.

Corals that are heat tolerant mix with those that are less tolerant, either within the same species or between species.

Next generation hybrid corals may have improved survival traits compared to non-crossbreed corals when they hatch.

Corals must gradually condition and acclimate to increased water temperatures before breeding new, more tolerant generations.

corals receive specialized probiotics, diets, and other treatments that improve their health and increase their resistance to environmental changes.

Related article: 4 million pounds of microplastics found in corals, causing tissue necrosis in fish

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