Buenos Dias Muchachos!!!!! By special request this morning I have yet another before and after photo or in this case photos showing the effects of coral bleaching. The first photo shows a big-beautiful, healthy colony of Grooved Brain Coral nestled at 45 feet on the Sea Aquarium house reef. The second photo shows the same colony completely bleached (but still alive) during the horrible season of 2010. The third photo shows the colony after seven months of warm water with clear, colder water coming back but it’s a case of “too little to late”. The fourth photo is the colony after a year with the colony now completely dead and algae starting to grow. In fact if you look close at the top of the coral you will see a little damselfish that has moved in and started building a “Damselfish Garden”. When corals die they immediately get covered in algae and become the property of some lucky damselfish. The damselfish will guard his new dead, algae infested coral head with his life and chase off any fish or diver that dares to intrude onto his property. As I have said before Coral Bleaching, or the paling of zooxanthellate invertebrates, occurs when the densities of zooxanthellae decline and or the concentration of photosynthetic pigments within the zooxanthellae fall. When corals bleach they commonly lose 60-90% of their zooxanthellae and each zooxanthella may lose 50-80% of its photosynthetic pigments. The pale appearance of bleached scleractinian corals and hydrocorals is due to the cnidarian’s calcareous skeleton showing through the translucent tissues (that are nearly devoid of pigmented zooxanthellae). If the stress-causing bleaching is not too severe and if it decreases in time, the affected corals usually regain their symbiotic algae within several weeks or a few months. If zooxanthellae loss is prolonged, i.e. if the stress continues and depleted zooxanthellae populations do not recover, the coral host eventually dies. If you remember way back in November of 2010 during the worst Coral Bleaching event ever I sent you a bunch of photos of these brain corals fighting to come back but the water temperatures just were not changing fast enough, most ended up dying! The Grooved Brain Corals took the biggest hit of all the corals and proved to be the most sensitive to coral bleaching and most did not recover! As I swim around the reefs here I still see dead colonies of Grooved Brain Coral everywhere that is now just a reminder of what can and will happen again if the seas become too warm or if we get another big season of rainfall. Tonight and tomorrow at 6:00 to 7:00pm the surviving brain corals around the Caribbean will be spawning. You need to be in the water by 6:00 and find a colony by 6:30, will try to get you a photo tonight. So far the waters in Curacao are still cold meaning no coral bleaching to this date, the reefs are still trying to recover from the last round in 2010. Need to get the camera ready for tonight, have a great day all!! Barry MORE: Coral Bleaching, Before and After Photos, Brain Coral
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