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Fluorescence reveal coral stress

Fluorescent light produced by corals correlate with coral stress prior to bleaching
Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego have investigated how fluorescence can be used to test coral stress prompted from cold and heat exposures.
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Corals are known to produce fluorescence through green fluorescent proteins, but little is known about the emitted light's function or purpose. Scientists believe fluorescence could offer protection from damaging sunlight or be used as a biochemical defense generated during times of stress.

In experimental studies conducted at Scripps, marine biologists Melissa Roth and Dimitri Deheyn tested the common Indo-Pacific reef-building branching coral Acropora yongei under various temperatures. Branching corals are susceptible to temperature stress and often one of the first to show signs of distress on a reef.

Roth and Deheyn found, at the induction of both cold and heat stress, corals rapidly display a decline in fluorescence levels. If the corals are able to adapt to the new conditions, such as to the cold settings in the experiment, then the fluorescence returns to normal levels upon acclimation.

While the corals recovered from cold stress, the heat-treated corals eventually bleached and remained so until the conclusion of the experiment. In this study, the very onset of bleaching caused fluorescence to spike to levels that remained high until the end of the experiment. The researchers noted that the initial spike was caused by the loss of "shading" from the symbiotic algae.

 
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