Rising sea temperatures are a main cause of global coral reef bleaching — when the water is too warm, corals expel the algae living in their tissues, causing the coral to turn white.
A team of researchers examined the genetics of a widespread coral to understand how corals survive extreme sea temperatures of 36 degree Celsius or higher in the Arabian Gulf, making them more heat tolerant than any other corals on the planet.
The study, which was published in the scientific journal PLOS One, sought answers to whether these corals have genetically adapted to these extreme conditions or have physiologically acclimated to the heat.
A DNA analysis was performed on corals collected from reefs in the Arabian Gulf near Abu Dhabi and from sites in the slightly cooler Gulf of Oman around Fujairah and Muscat. This analysis found some key differences, revealing that the Arabian Gulf corals and their algae are genetically distinct from their counterparts in Gulf of Oman.
Regional adaptation has also led the researchers to conclude that reefs threatened by climate change in the Gulf of Oman or Indian Ocean are unlikely to acquire the so-called “super genes” of Arabian Gulf corals.
[Read the full study]
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