How some corals survive in high-saline environments

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How some corals survive in high-saline environments

August 28, 2017 - 21:46
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Dinoflagellates are small plant cells found within coral tissues that enable the coral survive in a highly saline environment. According to a new study, they do this by regulating the osmotic pressure in the coral.

Bleached corals from Farasan Banks in the Red Sea.

A symbiotic relationship exists between the corals and the dinoflagellate Symbiodinium species. The latter provides the coral with energy in exchange for nutrients and carbon dioxide. But in the highly saline environment of the Red Sea and Persian/Arabian Gulf, how do the Symbiodinium cope?

Well, researchers at King Abdullah University of Science & Technology (KAUST) have found that they produce and accumulate compatible organic osolytes (COOs) that helps to adjust their osmotic pressure.

A paper on this discovery was published in the Science Advances journal.

"The synthesis of COOs represents a quickly available and viable long-term solution to establish an osmotic equilibrium," said PhD student Till Röthig, who led the paper with postdoctoral fellow Michael Ochsenkühn. "Our research demonstrates that the COO floridoside is used as a conserved osmolyte to help Symbiodinium and corals to osmoadapt to the saline conditions.

This new knowledge has implications for coral management, especially in light of climate change. "For example, suggested transplantation of temperature-resilient corals from the Red Sea to other habitats may not confer the desired temperature resistance in a new, less saline environment. Conversely, increases in seawater salinities in some places may help corals to become more stress tolerant,” said Röthig.

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