Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Scientific publication in Marine Biology - Ecophysiology team

Coral bleaching is linked to the capacity of the animal host to supply essential metals to the symbionts.

Many of us need trace element (micronutrients) to fight against winter illness episodes and we are not alone! Trace elements can be useful also to corals! A recent study conducted by the ecophysiology team of the Scientific Center of Monaco and published in Global Change Biology shows that corals fed with trace element-enriched zooplankton are more resistant to temperature stress than unfed corals. These results being correlated with strong changes in the internal concentrations of trace elements suggest that the contribution of plankton to the supply of iron, manganese and magnesium limit coral bleaching.

Over the last three years, reefs around the world have suffered from mass coral bleaching events as a result of the increase in global sea surface temperature: corals expel their symbiotic algae, which are the main food providers to the symbiotic association, and have no choice but to catch planktonic cells in the surrounding waters. Plankton is rich in proteins and lipids, but can also carry trace minerals that may be essential for the health of corals and algae during environmental stress. This aspect, however, has never been investigated and was the subject of the study published in Global Change Biology. We showed that during thermal stress, corals undergo large changes in the internal concentrations of trace elements. Corals that do not receive zooplankton quickly lose their algae and bleach. On the other hand, corals that have been fed zooplankton for several weeks are resistant to stress. Their algae are enriched with iron, manganese and magnesium, which are essential trace elements for photosynthesis and against oxidative stress caused by high temperatures. The animal is also richer in trace elements and can transfer them to the algae if necessary. In conclusion, the study has shown that a contribution in trace elements can limit coral bleaching.

© A. Dias Mota (CSM)
Coral Stylophora pistillata fed with zooplankton. His symbiotic algae allowed to resist to temperature stress thanks to trace elements in zooplankton.
© A. Dias Mota (CSM)
Coral Stylophora pistillata unfed with zooplankton. He lost his symbiotic algae (bleaching)

 

Ferrier-Pagès, C., Sauzéat, L., & Balter, V. (2018). Coral bleaching is linked to the capacity of the animal host to supply essential metals to the symbionts. Global change biology. doi: 10.1111/gcb.14141.

 


 For more information, see www.centrescientifique.mc or contact :

- Dr Christine Ferrier-Pagès, Research Director, in charge of the Ecophysiology team of the Marine Biology Department, Scientific Centre of Monaco (ferrier@centrescientifique.mc)

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