you're reading...

Climate Change

A new thermally tolerant species of algae is found!

Paper: Hume BCC, D’Angelo C, Smith EG, Stevens JR, Burt J, and Wiedenmann J. “Symbiodinium thermophilum sp. nov., a thermotolerant sumbiotic alga prevalent in corals of the world’s hottest sea, the Persian/Arabian Gulf” (2015) Scientific Reports. 5: 8562. DOI: 10.1038/srep08562

Resident Symbiodinium spp. remained stable within corals following a cold-water stress event off Baja Cali fornia, Mexico. Photo: T.C. LaJeunesse, M. D. Aschaffenburg, D.T. Pettay 2008

Coral reefs are in rapid decline due to several factors including climate change and human activities. Shallow water corals depend on the symbiotic (mutually beneficial) relationship they have with a certain type of algae, zooxanthellae, belonging in the genus Symbiodinium. Changes in water temperature can cause the loss of zooxanthellae, which often leads to coral bleaching. Large coral bleaching events have increased in the last couple decades due to the rising ocean temperatures. Several coral reefs in the Persian/Arabian Gulf have been seen to cope with large (~20°C) temperature fluctuations, indicating at least some algal species are able to survive the changes in temperature.

Corals can use this temperature-coping type of Symbiodinium algae to survive temperature fluctuations. By having the thermally tolerant Symbiodinium host with them, corals will be less likely to bleach out. Researchers from the UK set out to understand a little bit more about this symbiotic relationship and ended up finding a brand-new algae species, Symbiodinium thermophilum.

The researchers used molecular phylogenetic analysis to better understand the new algae. This involved breaking down and analyzing the DNA in the algae in order to better understand its relationship to other algae species in the genus Symbiodinium. By analyzing how this new algae’s genes fit together, researchers can determine if it is a completely new strain of algae, or if it is an evolved form of zooxanthelllae that “learned” to cope with temperature fluctuations. They also monitored the symbiotic partnership of the corals and the new algae over a span of twenty-two months to ensure that this association was stable through a range of thermal conditions. Six different species of corals were tagged and analyzed over the seasons in the Persian/Arabian Gulf (Fig. 1).

fig 1

Fig. 1 Coral- Symbiodinium sampling locations with the Persian/Arabian Gulf. (A-E) represents previous sampling locations from Baker et al. 2004. 1-3 represent sampling locations from this study; Dalma (1), Saadiyat (2), and Umm Al Quwain (3).



Results and Implications

fig 2

Fig. 2 Phenotypic plasticity can be defined as the ability of one genotype to produce more than one phenotype when exposed to different environments.

All six species of corals analyzed showed an association with the new Symbiodinium algae, and it is indeed prevalent all year round in the Persian/Arabian Gulf. The prevalence of this new alga in the extreme temperature conditions of the Persian/Arabian Gulf contradicts the current understanding of sensitive zooxanthellae. These new findings could imply the new algae species has a greater phenotypic plasticity (Fig. 2) than previously thought.

If this new algae starts to host in shallow water corals across the globe, it could potentially reduce coral bleaching. It is, however, unknown if this new species is indeed conferring thermal tolerance to the coral, or if it is simply a strain that prefers to inhabit corals that are already a little more hardy and tolerant of changing water temperatures.

It is promising that corals have a way to adjust to stressful environmental conditions and gives hope that there might be more thermally-tolerant host species out there for the corals. Temperature, however, is not the only condition troubling coral reefs. Pollution, excess nutrients, overfishing, and coastal development are all threats coral reefs face. Simply being resilient against rising sea temperatures will, unfortunately, not be enough to save all the reefs from bleaching and dying off.


No comments yet.

Post a Comment


  • by oceanbites 2 months ago
    Happy Earth Day! Take some time today to do something for the planet and appreciate the ocean, which covers 71% of the Earth’s surface.  #EarthDay   #OceanAppreciation   #Oceanbites   #CoastalVibes   #CoastalRI 
  • by oceanbites 3 months ago
    Not all outdoor science is fieldwork. Some of the best days in the lab can be setting up experiments, especially when you get to do it outdoors. It’s an exciting mix of problem solving, precision, preparation, and teamwork. Here is
  • by oceanbites 3 months ago
    Being on a research cruise is a unique experience with the open water, 12-hour working shifts, and close quarters, but there are some familiar practices too. Here Diana is filtering seawater to gather chlorophyll for analysis, the same process on
  • by oceanbites 5 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on  #oceanbites  we are featuring Hannah Collins  @hannahh_irene  Hannah works with marine suspension feeding bivalves and microplastics, investigating whether ingesting microplastics causes changes to the gut microbial community or gut tissues. She hopes to keep working
  • by oceanbites 5 months ago
    Leveling up - did you know that crabs have a larval phase? These are both porcelain crabs, but the one on the right is the earlier stage. It’s massive spine makes it both difficult to eat and quite conspicuous in
  • by oceanbites 5 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Cierra Braga. Cierra works ultraviolet c (UVC) to discover how this light can be used to combat biofouling, or the growth of living things, on the hulls of ships. Here, you
  • by oceanbites 5 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Elena Gadoutsis  @haysailor  These photos feature her “favorite marine research so far: From surveying tropical coral reefs, photographing dolphins and whales, and growing my own algae to expose it to different
  • by oceanbites 6 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on Oceanbites we are featuring Eliza Oldach. According to Ellie, “I study coastal communities, and try to understand the policies and decisions and interactions and adaptations that communities use to navigate an ever-changing world. Most of
  • by oceanbites 6 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Jiwoon Park with a little photographic help from Ryan Tabata at the University of Hawaii. When asked about her research, Jiwoon wrote “Just like we need vitamins and minerals to stay
  • by oceanbites 7 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on  #Oceanbites  we are featuring  @riley_henning  According to Riley, ”I am interested in studying small things that make a big impact in the ocean. Right now for my master's research at the University of San Diego,
  • by oceanbites 7 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Gabby Stedman. Gabby is interested in interested in understanding how many species of small-bodied animals there are in the deep-sea and where they live so we can better protect them from
  • by oceanbites 7 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Shawn Wang! Shawn is “an oceanographer that studies ocean conditions of the past. I use everything from microfossils to complex computer models to understand how climate has changed in the past
  • by oceanbites 7 months ago
    Today we are highlighting some of our awesome new authors for  #WriterWednesday  Today we have Daniel Speer! He says, “I am driven to investigate the interface of biology, chemistry, and physics, asking questions about how organisms or biological systems respond
  • by oceanbites 8 months ago
    Here at Oceanbites we love long-term datasets. So much happens in the ocean that sometimes it can be hard to tell if a trend is a part of a natural cycle or actually an anomaly, but as we gather more
  • by oceanbites 8 months ago
    Have you ever seen a lobster molt? Because lobsters have exoskeletons, every time they grow they have to climb out of their old shell, leaving them soft and vulnerable for a few days until their new shell hardens. Young, small
  • by oceanbites 9 months ago
    A lot of zooplankton are translucent, making it much easier to hide from predators. This juvenile mantis shrimp was almost impossible to spot floating in the water, but under a dissecting scope it’s features really come into view. See the
  • by oceanbites 9 months ago
    This is a clump of Dead Man’s Fingers, scientific name Codium fragile. It’s native to the Pacific Ocean and is invasive where I found it on the east coast of the US. It’s a bit velvety, and the coolest thing
  • by oceanbites 10 months ago
    You’ve probably heard of jellyfish, but have you heard of salps? These gelatinous sea creatures band together to form long chains, but they can also fall apart and will wash up onshore like tiny gemstones that squish. Have you seen
  • by oceanbites 11 months ago
    Check out what’s happening on a cool summer research cruise! On the  #neslter  summer transect cruise, we deployed a tow sled called the In Situ Icthyoplankton Imaging System. This can take pictures of gelatinous zooplankton (like jellyfish) that would be
  • by oceanbites 11 months ago
    Did you know horseshoe crabs have more than just two eyes? In these juveniles you can see another set in the middle of the shell. Check out our website to learn about some awesome horseshoe crab research.  #oceanbites   #plankton   #horseshoecrabs 
WP2Social Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com