A study published Tuesday in Scientific Reports shows that stony corals, which provide food and shelter for almost a quarter of all ocean species, are preparing for a major extinction event.
The research team—which includes scientists from The Graduate Centre, CUNY; Baruch College; Scripps Institution of Oceanography; University of Haifa; University of Leeds; and GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research—found that corals are currently exhibiting a suite of dynamic survival responses that correspond with their last major extinction 66 million years ago. These coral traits include increased prevalence of deep-water residing, cosmopolitan distributions, non-symbiotic relationship to algae, solitary or small colonies, and bleaching resistance.
Scientists were able to trace these behaviours due to excellent fossil records that coral skeletons leave behind. This study compared those fossil records to the modern International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List data. The IUCN Red List of threatened species is world’s most comprehensive information source on the global conservation status of animal, fungi, and plant species. MORE
Header image: The stony coral (Oculina patagonica) after being exposed to acidic ocean condition (pH 7.4) after two months and four months. This shows how some coral species are able to adapt to more acidic, extinction-like conditions by transforming from colonial communities (top) to solitary existence. Credit: Dan Tchernov.