Tag Archives: Coral

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Synthetic Coral to Clean the Ocean

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Photo credit: Paul Nicklen

 Coral, with its porous nature and curled structure, is extremely efficient at absorbing toxic heavy metals; deadly poisons. The mercury that is polluting our oceans is contributing to massive coral die-offs, and is building up in the food chain, eventually resulting in toxic fish. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), between 1.5 and 17 in every thousand children living in selected subsistence fishing populations showed cognitive impacts caused by the consumption of fish containing mercury. Coral’s remarkable ability to absorb heavy metals inspired researchers at Anhui Jianzhu University in China to create nano-sized, coral-like structures that use aluminum oxide to absorb mercury out of the water. The team, led by Dr. Xianbiao Wang, published their procedures and findings this week in the Journal of Colloid and Interface Science. They outlined their process for creating this unique structure, which they found to be about two and a half times more effective at absorbing mercury than traditionally structured nanoparticles –  49.15 mg/g vs.19.56 mg/g.… More:

New study highlights uncertainty in Caribbean gorgonians

Pterogorgia cf citrina from the Saba Bank. Credit: Wirshing & Baker, 2015

Pterogorgia cf citrina from the Saba Bank. Credit: Wirshing & Baker, 2015

 Caribbean coral reefs are frequently dominated by tall, branching octocorals known colloquially as “gorgonians”. Identifying these to genus is often simple enough, as most taxa are unique in shape and structure, but correctly diagnosing to species is often wrought with uncertainty. Proper identification requires verification by microscopic examination of the miniscule calcium carbonate sclerites embedded within the coral’s tissue, but, in the case of the common aquarium coral Pterogorgia, the sclerites all look the same. So, in a recently published study, researchers relied on genetic sequencing to identify an unusual variant discovered at a large undersea atoll located at the Saba Bank (in the Lesser Antilles). To briefly summarizes the four known phenotypes in this genus. P. guadalupensis has wide flat branches, which have given it its common names of “Sea Blade” or “Ribbon Gorgonian”. An important feature to note is how the polyps arise from a pair of grooves running along the edges of each branch. Color varies from yellow to purple. P. anceps is nearly… More:

Astreopora montiporina the backstory

The story of my Astreopora montiporina colony is an interesting one. If you’re not familiar with this coral don’t worry, it is not commonly known or collected; it was named as a new species in 2011. Back to my story, I purchased a colony of clove polyps four years ago and when I was making some fragments I noticed that the rock the clove polyps were growing on was not a rock but the underside of a browned out coral colony. I removed all of the clove polyps, turned the coral towards the light, and waited to see what would happen. During the following months it slowly started to recover, the color changed from brown to green. After about a year it looked like this. 

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Astreopora after about a year of recovery

 I didn’t know what kind of coral it was; the growth… More:

Deepwater Pigments of The Red Sea

Together with an international team of researchers, divers from the University of Southampton, UK, Tel Aviv University and the Interuniversity Institute for Marine Sciences (IUI), Israel have found a colorful range of pigments in coral more than 50 meters below the surface of Red Sea reefs. Since only blue wavelengths from the sun reach coral at depths past 50 meters, the team was surprised to find specimens exhibiting pigments such as red and yellow. Jörg Wiedenmann, Professor of Biological Oceanography and head of the University of Southampton’s Coral Reef Laboratory, explains: “These fluorescent pigments are proteins. When they are illuminated with blue or ultraviolet light, they give back light of longer wavelengths, such as reds or greens.” 150624143152_1_900x600Dr Cecilia D’Angelo, Senior Research Fellow at Southampton sees a future for coral pigment use in industries such as biomedical adding: “We found, however, that some of the pigments of these corals require violet light to switch from their nascent green color to the red hue of the mature pigment. This is a particularly interesting property to develop markers for advanced microscopic imaging applications. Their optical properties potentially make them important tools for biomedical imaging applications, as their fluorescent glow can be used to highlight living cells or cellular structures of interest under the microscope. They could also be applied to track cancer cells or as tools to screen for new drugs.” Read more here!  … More:

Coral Letters

coral lettersTwo years ago, Barry and Aimee Brown began photographing “hidden” letters in the brain coral colonies around Curacao, the Caribbean island where they live. Their hunt, which sometimes took them as deep as 100 feet, gave them an even better understanding of the devastation shallow-growing brain coral have experienced from bleaching and recent strong storms. You can download the full set of letters for free here as a zip file. The photographers only ask that you give them credit and that you don’t use the work commercially.… More:

Chromis Make Gender Adjustments to Combat Global Warming

A new study from the University of Sydney Australia has found that the Spiny Chromis reef fish can manipulate the gender of their offspring to combat the gender bias created by increasing ocean temperatures. “The research findings are significant because global warming poses a threat to species with temperature-dependent sex determination (TSD), such as reptiles and fish, potentially skewing the sex-ratio of offspring and, consequently, breeding individuals in a population,”said lead author and UTS Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Research Fellow Dr Jennifer Donelson. “A reduction in the proportion of females in the population could be especially damaging because population growth rate is often constrained by female fertility.” A-poly-rubble-copy_0The understanding of how prenatal gender adjustments can be made is a bit of a mystery to scientists but the findings certainly add to the hope that ecosystems will adapt to the changes occurring all over the globe. “Just precisely how our study species, the Spiny Chromis coral reef fish, engineer these amazing adjustments is unknown and is something we are now investigating. What we do know however is that oceans are warming and emerging research is showing the importance of transgenerational plasticity in reducing the negative impacts of climate change on species with TSD.” Read more here!… More:

The Return of Fish Aid in Reef Recovery

Overfishing is one key impact to the decline of coral reefs worldwide and a new study performed by the Wildlife Conservation Society, James Cook University, and The Australian Institute of Marine Science shows just how important fish are to the recovery of areas affected by coastal threats such as overfishing. “Reef fish play a range of important roles in the functioning of coral reef ecosystems, for example by grazing algae and controlling coral-eating invertebrates, that help to maintain the ecosystem as a whole,” said coauthor Nick Graham of James Cook University. 150408131333_1_900x600“By linking fisheries to ecology, we can now make informed statements about ecosystem function at a given level of fish biomass.” Coastal threats such as overfishing have long been adapted to antiquated techniques so the results of this study will improve efficiency for both reef and fishermen. “The finding that gear restrictions, species selection or local customs can also contribute to fish population recovery is compelling. It demonstrates that managers can use a range of different management strategies in areas where it may not be culturally feasible to establish permanent marine reserves,” said coauthor Stacy Jupiter, WCS Melanesia Program Director. Check out the key findings here!… More:

Making Your Own Ice Packs is Cool and Easy

Summer is here and if you ship out a bunch of corals every week like I do, you’re going to need to keep them cool. Ice packs from most shipping supply companies cost anywhere from $1.00 – .50 cents each, that means I used to spend a few hundred dollars per year just on ice packs and you generally only have two size options. I have made ice packs out of gelatin in the past, but I find it to be messy, time consuming, and not vegan friendly. It had been in the back of my mind for awhile to try using water polymer crystals to make ice packs after seeing them used in floral arrangements, so I recently started doing it. 

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Water Polymer Crystals after absorbing water

 Water polymer crystals… More:


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