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‘The Guardian’ highlights the in vivo study on coral rejuvenation among the top studies of 2019 on endangered species

This research leads the ranking of published studies by <i>The Guardian</i> within the field of conservation and protection of endangered species.

This research leads the ranking of published studies by The Guardian within the field of conservation and protection of endangered species.

This survival mechanism in the marine environment –known as rejuvenation- had only been described in some fossil corals so far.

This survival mechanism in the marine environment –known as rejuvenation- had only been described in some fossil corals so far.

09/01/2020

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In the context of a planet where there are not that many good news on the environment, the newspaper The Guardian highlighted a study carried out by the UB and IRBio among the top ten most relevant studies of 2019 showing a bit of hope within the field of conservation and protection of endangered species.

This study, published in the journal Science Advances, leads the ranking of published studies by The Guardian and reveals the first scientific evidence of the in vivo rejuvenation phenomenon in coral colonies of Cladocora caespitose, in the marine reserve of Columbrets, in the coasts of Castellón. This survival mechanism in the marine environment –only known in some fossilized corals so far- has been described by Diego Kersting and Cristina Linares, from the Department of Evolutionary Biology, Ecology and Environmental Sciences of the Faculty of Biology and the Biodiversity Research Institute (IRBio) of the University of Barcelona.

Since 2002, Kersting and Linares have worked on a scientific monitoring of 2580 coral colonies of Cladocora caespitose in the marine reserve of Columbrets, a known area for the studies of the effects of climate change in the marine environment. This coral –the only one able to create reefs in the Mediterranean Sea- is listed as an endangered species due the mortality mainly caused by global warming.

The long-term monitoring of the corals in Columbrets revealed a surprising result: some coral colonies that were thought to be dead for years show some alive parts. According to the experts, this type of recovery was possible thanks to a process known as rejuvenation. In particular, under stress conditions –for instance, excessive warm waters-, some polyps of coral colonies which are dying can become smaller and smaller until abandoning their calcareous skeleton partially.

In this reduced state, the polyps can survive extreme conditions that cause the death of the other polyps in the colony. When conditions improve, polyps recover their normal size and form a new calcareous skeleton. This discovery opens a new perspective for the survival of the only coral reef in the Mediterranean, which grows slowly –about 3 mm per year- and has a limited ability to create new colonies.

 

Images: Diego Kersting (UB-IRBio-Free University of Berlin)



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