For years, coral reefs around the world have been under the constant threat of mass bleaching events as the oceans’ temperatures continue growing because of climate change.
Unfortunately, corals stand little chance of bouncing back from such events. However, a recent study says that they resorted to a spectacular survival technique – Shifting to a vibrant neon color.
When bleaching events happen, prolonged heat spikes force corals to turn a pale white, usually leading to death.
However, “colorful bleaching” has an opposite effect – the dying corals accumulate more pigment and glow in shades of purple, orange, and pink.
The first discovery of a neon coral dates ten years ago, but no pertinent explanation about the phenomenon has been formulated since.
However, the study published on Thursday in the journal Current Biology says that corals change color to attempt to survive.
Corals coexist with small algae – they provide nutrients, shelter, and carbon dioxide to aid photosynthesis.
Unfortunately for them, even the slightest increase in water temperature can be fatal for their relationship by expelling algae from the coral’s tissue and revealing its white and vulnerable skeleton.
After the exposure happens, the coral usually breaks down and dies, and that is harmful to other organisms that relied on corals for food or shelter.
The way corals change their color has been labeled as “chilling, beautiful and heartbreaking,” and it was associated to a cry for help as the coral tries to capture the algae’s attention.
Lead researcher Professor Jörg Wiedenmann of the University of Southampton stated that their research “shows colorful bleaching involves a self-regulating mechanism, a so-called optical feedback loop that involves both partners of the symbiosis.”
Corals are way more important than most of us are aware and should be preserved. They are vital links to marine ecosystems.