LONDON corals may have teamed up with the microscopic algae that lived in them more than 160 million years ago, according to a new study. The two organisms have a symbiotic relationship, that is, they need each other to survive.
But this partnership was developed about 60 million years ago. The new findings suggest that reef algae have survived significant environmental changes over time. This includes the mass extinction that has destroyed most dinosaurs.
Algae's resistance to temperature changes has recently been a problem for scientists, as the corals were "bleached" by the warming of the Great Barrier Reef. The study, conducted by an international team of scientists, aimed to explore the diversity of coral-inhabited algae species.
With regard to the species group Symbiodinium, the researchers found more varieties than previously thought. Although scientists were aware of algae diversity, it has not been divided into many different species ̵
"Our recognition of the true origin of those microbes that give life to corals is a great revelation," said lead author Prof Todd LaJeunesse BBC News.
"They are much older than previously estimated, which means that [this partnership has] has been around for a damn long time!" Added the Pennsylvania State University researcher.
Prof Mary-Alice Coffroth of the University of Buffalo, who was not involved in the study, welcomed the new age estimate as "an important outcome."
"The threats of climate change and other anthropogenic disturbances have underscored the need for more intensive study of reef and coral resilience," she told the BBC.
The classification of many symbiodinium species is, she says, "a much-needed first step in elucidating the mysteries of this important but enigmatic group."
Prof. LaJeunesse is optimistic about the study's impact on coral algae's resilience to climate change.
"It tells us that they are incredibly resilient and are likely to be around for a long time, saying that surviving the current rapid changes in our climate may not be a nice one." Ecosystem function may collapse, "he said.
However, researchers remain concerned that damage to coral reefs (19659002) The team now hopes to further investigate the different types of symbiodinium by comparing their genomes, the ability to associate with different corals, and thermal tolerance to one another better understand how they react to climate change