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Bringing the Lab to the Reef

Technology is ever-present in the lab as well as the hobby of reef keeping but scientists from Europe are now going to be taking their instruments directly into the field, or reef I should say. To better understand coral metabolism and respiration researchers from Denmark will be deploying remote operated vehicles (ROV) and high-resolution cameras to help them deploy lab equipment and take measurements. “Traditionally the metabolism of cold-water reefs are typically investigated by collecting animals and analyzing them in a laboratory. Preferably, however, researchers would like to do the opposite, and bring the laboratory to the seabed, where the reef can be studied in its own environment. Since cold water reefs grow incredibly slowly — about 5 mm per year — and are fragile habitats, we were looking at novel techniques that could be used on a reef to asses metabolism with little impact on the reef structures,” says Dr. Lorenzo Rovelli, Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS), visiting researcher at the Nordic Center for Earth Evolution (NordCEE), Department of Biology, University of Southern Denmark.150506111513_1_900x600 Employing a method termed ‘Aquatic Eddy Covariance’ the team will be able to simultaneously measure oxygen content and flow. “We are particularly interested in finding out how much carbon is being turned over by a reef — and by that I mean the whole reef community. The community consists of the corals, which are the engineers behind the reef structure, as well as all the other organisms that inhabit the reef: from large crabs to microscopic organisms. Currently, we still do not know if and to what extent such reefs are contributing to the global carbon budget.” Read more here!

Fishing Line and “No-Take” Zones Studied to Combat Coral Disease

Coral CoE is at it again trying to understand how human impact can effect change on coral reefs around the globe. Studying marine reserves in and around the Great Barrier Reef scientists “surveyed more than 80,000 corals around the Whitsunday Islands for six different diseases that commonly harm reef corals around the world.” -Lead researcher, Dr Joleah Lamb from Coral CoE. What they found was that areas protected from human activity (no-take marine reserves) had a much lower amounts of indigenous disease, and that coral actually have increased rates of health.150602130652_1_900x600“We found three coral diseases were more prevalent on reefs outside no-take marine reserves, particularly on reefs with high levels of injured corals and discarded fishing line. Fishing line not only causes coral tissue injuries and skeleton damage, but also provides an additional surface for potential pathogens to colonize, increasing their capacity to infect wounds caused by entangled fishing line,” added Dr Lamb. “No take marine reserves are a promising approach for mitigating coral disease in locations where the concentration or intensity of fishing effort is relatively high,” says Professor Garry Russ from the Coral CoE. Read more here!

Dietarily Supplementing the Effects of Climate Change in Coral Reefs

Researchers from the University of Miami are perfectly placed to collect their recent findings supporting the need for human intervention when it comes to climate change and coral reefs. “For many years we have known that some types of symbiotic algae can convey climate change resilience to corals,” said co-author Chris Langdon, UM Rosenstiel School professor and chair of marine biology and ecology. “This study shows that behavioral and possibly physiological differences in the animal, which is half of the coral-algal symbiosis, can also convey resilience and not just to climate change but also to ocean acidification.” climate-changeThe study found that by simulating a bleaching event, and then providing an increased amount of bio-available organics, coral was able to mitigate the effects of bleaching much more easily. “In this study we found that the threatened coral, Acropora cervicornis, was able to increase its feeding rate and stored energy reserves when exposed to high CO2 conditions at 26°C or 30°C and mitigate reductions in calcification that caused significant decreases in growth rate in unfed corals,” according to the authors. “Our study shows a pathway to resilience previous unknown for this particular species, which was once a dominant species in South Florida. This has implications for how we care for and where we out-plant Staghorn corals back onto reefs to give them the best chance for resilience possible in the future.” -UM Rosenstiel School Ph.D. student Erica Towle, lead author of the study. Read more here!

Pair of Alarming Shark Attacks In North Carolina

grPHIXSadly, over the weekend, a 13 year old girl and a 16 year old boy, lost their limbs after vicious shark attacks along the North Carolina Coast. Both attacks occurred within just two miles of each other, approximately 45 minutes after the first attack. Many people are comparing these attacks to Jaws, adding to the media frenzy and the heightened fear of swimming along this beach. Each child, whose names have not been released, have sadly lost their limbs in this traumatic event. MORE

Does water have a memory? The science of structured water…

waterUpdate: After reviewing the material I used to write this article, I contacted none other than infamous reef chemist Randy Holmes Farley. According to Randy, this is the nature of water memory:Water does have a clear structure of hydrogen bonded networks. Hydrogen bonds are bonds between the hydrogen atom of one water molecule and the oxygen atom of a second one. They can form rings and all sorts of extended structures. These bonds are incredibly important, making water denser than it otherwise would be by pulling water molecules together. They are also why ice floats.BUT, such hydrogen bonds only last for about 0.00000000001 seconds before breaking and then reforming to the same or a different water molecule. Consequently, any memory in pure water can only last for a very tiny fraction of a second.Randy also commented that flash freezing takes longer than the life of hydrogen bonds, and also creates many hydrogen bonds, making him question how flash freezing water exposed to music could produce any evidence of water memory.  In 1988 French immunologist Jacques Benveniste published a study in Nature magazine, stating that he and his team had learned that water had a memory. What did this mean? During the study, Benveniste diluted antigens to such a level, that by all accounts no physical traces of the antigens were still present in water. Yet, when the diluted water was injected onto a bacteria the antigen would destroy, to Benveniste’s shock, the bacteria was assimilated, just as if hit with the original antigen. Did this mean that water could remember the chemical structure of everything that entered it? If it did, could water be used to treat illness or correct elemental shortcomings, much like a phone line transmits voice data? In ancient accounts it was noted that water from silver vessels was often used to heal wounds or treat illness. Was this evidence of water memory?  MORE

New Dwarf Cuttlefish at Henry Doorly Zoo!

Dwarf_cuttlefish_(Sepia_bandensis) by the High Fin Sperm Whale

Dwarf cuttlefish. Photo: High Fin Sperm Whale/Wikimedia Commons

 The newest residents at the Henry Doorly Zoo have ten tentacles, swim via jet propulsion, squirt ink at potential danger and are masters of camouflage.  Yes, the zoo has cuttlefish!!Sixteen dwarf cuttlefish are now on display near the giant Pacific octopus exhibit.   These little guys are only 4 inches (10cm) in size when adults (the size of your computer mouse), but they are big on the cuteness scale.  Beware though; they only live for a year so don’t get too attached! Want one? MORE

Wife Swapping: Coral Style

It’s long been a theory of mine that corals exchange zooxanthellae within our aquariums to combat environmental stressors, and a new study proves this theory to be true in controlled systems as well as in the wild. The University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science led the study, which simulated ocean-acidification in controlled tank environments. “Since ‘symbiont shuffling’ occurs in only some cases, we wanted to understand what drives this process and whether it could help corals adjust to climate change,” said Ross Cunning, lead author of the study. Researchers then allowed150604100915_1_900x600 these specimens to recover in different temperatures to gauge which clades of zooxanthellae they adopted, and with a firm theory here, Cunning suggests temperature could be a controlling factor when it comes how and what symbionts are exchanged: “We discovered that partner switching in Caribbean star corals is dependent upon the severity of the bleaching event and the temperature during recovery.” Two similar studies were also conducted in the Coral Reef Futures lab at UM. “Together, these studies suggest that that the rate of warming, timing between bleaching events, and severity of each bleaching event, will play an important role in determining coral survivorship. We need to better understand these changes in order to accurately predict coral reef futures.” add’s Andrew Baker, UM Rosenstiel School associate professor of marine biology and ecology at UM.  Read more here!

Unlocking the Code to Ocean-Acidification

A new study led by scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) has presented evidence stating coral reefs may not be as susceptible to ocean-acidification as once was thought. Examining coral reefs from the naturally acidic waters of Palau archipelago, researchers made some valuable findings. “Surprisingly, in Palau where the pH is lowest, we see a coral community that hosts more species and has greater coral cover than in the sites where pH is normal,” states Anne Cohen, co-author of the paper.
panama_coral_bioerosion_750_368613Upon comparing these findings with other naturally acidic reefs around the world, researchers found that the only common thread across these reefs was bio-erosion, and “because we don’t see a correlation between skeletal density and pH” [in the Palau reefs] lead author Hanna Barkley thinks there is something specific to Palau that might unlock the ocean-acidification code. Read more here!  

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