A small, overlooked snail could contribute to the sinking of coral reefs.
Scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology have investigated how the Coralliophila violacea snail could further weaken already damaged reefs. The study published in Ecological Applications on Thursday found that the snail could reduce the growth of an important coral species Porites cylindrica . The Porites coral can form a basis for reefs as it is less susceptible to seaweed and other threats.
"The Porites Coral is a kind of last man, the last hope for some of these reefs coming back They are the ones who selectively hunt these snails," said Mark Hay, professor at Georgia Tech and author on paper, in a statement, "As you get fewer and fewer corals, the snails concentrate on the fewer and fewer of these colonies." This is part of the downward spiral of the reefs. "
The coral reefs are already weakened by pollution, rising sea temperatures, invasive species, and other factors , This snail, which is about half an inch in length and almost 2 centimeters long, sucks liquid from the coral, which is why they are called "coral ticks".
The scientists found a clear link between the number of fish in an area and the number of corals in Fiji's Coral Coast. On a single colony in areas where fishing is prohibited, Cody Clements, an author on paper, never found more than five snails. In areas where fishing is allowed, he found 35 times more snails on the coral.
Overfishing affects coral reefs, as fish are known to control marine algae and predators. To see how the larger amounts of snails affected the corals, Clements attached snails to isolated coral branches. He compared these branches after 24 days with twigs without snails. Depending on the size of the snails, coral growth decreased by 1