Coral reefs glow neon colors in an effort to survive
While dying coral reefs are typically characterized by bleaching -- the release of algae which causes their tissue to turn white -- they can also instead turn a bright range of neon colors in a final effort to survive, according to research published Thursday. That move could help reefs rebound, the research suggests. The findings were earlier shared in an Inverse report.
Algae lives in the cells of healthy coral, harnessing energy, while corals provide shelter and nutrients. But rising temperatures impact that symbiotic relationship, and the release of algae leaves behind a bleached skeleton of coral. But other corals react differently, instead turning bright colors from bluish-purple to pink, according to the report.
Scientists say this colorful display happens as a result of the coral and algae adding a protective layer that helps them endure difficult conditions in the ocean, and that could also lure more symbiotic organisms to come to the reef. The protective layer is composed of pigments that are like green fluorescent protein, which is found in some jellyfish and glows in light. Instead of the coral's color being attributed to algae, it makes the glowing pigment itself through interaction with sunlight.
This all happens via something called an optical feedback loop. In healthy corals, the photosynthesis process of algae absorbs the majority of sunlight that reaches the reef. But when there's no algae, that light moves around inside the coral and is reflected by the white coral skeleton. That action can be "stressful" for algae and cause it not to ...
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