Corals sense warming waters and initiate self-suicide

Australian scientists have shed new light on the mechanisms of coral bleaching.

The phenomenon that affects coral reefs around the world is known to be triggered by rising water temperatures. However, scientists at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and James Cook University have found that the sequence of molecular events that lead to the mass, self-inflicted death of corals can begin when ocean temperatures are as much as three degrees lower than those usually associated with coral bleaching.

It appears the coral feels the rise in water temperatures and initiates “apoptosis,” a process in which living organisms deliberately destroy their infected body cells in an attempt to protect the organism as a whole.

The study’s lead author, Dr Tracy Ainsworth, said this new insight could help scientists better understand coral recovery mechanisms and how the process of coral bleaching works at lower and varying temperatures.

Read more at ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and James Cook University

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