Can algae hookups help corals survive?

Dinophyceae tetrad cell photographed by a scientist at Rice University with a confocal microscope. It will soon be split into 4 separate cells. The four nuclei of the cell are drawn in red. Researchers from Rice and Spain have confirmed from experiments that these symbionts from coral colonies on Moorea, French Polynesia, can reproduce in both mitosis and sex. Credit: Correa Lab / Rice University

A little more sexy time for Symbiont could help coral reefs survive the challenges of climate change. And it can help us all.

Researchers at Rice University and the Institute of Oceanography of Spain I already knew the importance of algae Known as dinophyceae for coral health as the ocean warms, it is now confirmed that small creatures not only divide in half, but also breed by sex.

It is according to Rice marine biologist Adrian Correa and graduate student Lauren Howker. Dinophyceae Symbiont provides better service to coral partners.

Dinophyceae not only contribute to the stunning color scheme of corals, but, importantly, also help feed the host by turning sunlight into food.

“many Stony coral You can’t survive without a symbion, “Hawker said. “And these symbionts have the potential to help corals respond to climate change. These dinophyceae grow for months, but corals can only breed once a year. There is sex.

“So if we can adapt Symbion to new environmental conditions faster, we may all be able to help corals withstand high temperatures while tackling climate change.”

In Nature’s Open Access Research Science report, They wrote the finding that symbiotic sexuality “sets a stage for investigating environmental triggers” and “accelerates the supported evolution of major coral symbiotic organisms to combat coral reef degradation.” rice field.

To better understand algae, Rice researchers studied the life cycle of dinophyceae and contacted Rosa Figueroa, a researcher at the Spanish Institute of Oceanography, the lead author of the study.

“We taught her about the coral algae system, she taught us about the sex of other dinophyceae, and we collaborated to see if we could detect symbiotic sex on coral reefs. Formed, “said Howker.

“In the coral dinophyceae genomic dataset, researchers would see all the genes needed for coral symbiont to sexually reproduce, but could not see the actual cells in the process.” Said Correa, an assistant professor of biological science. “That’s what we got this time.”

Sex and Symbiotic Life: Can Algae Hookups Help Corals Survive?

Lauren Howker (left) and Adrian Correa of ​​Rice University have discovered that symbiotic algae found in French Polynesian corals can reproduce by mitosis and gender. This may facilitate the development of algae that better protect coral reefs from the effects of climate change.Credits: Brandon Martin / Rice University

Discovery follows sampling at Coral reef Observation of advanced algae on Moorea Island, French Polynesia in July 2019 Confocal microscope This allows you to better view the 3D structure.

“This is the first evidence that these symbionts reproduce sexually when isolated on coral cells. This is what conditions can promote sex and how to do it. We’re excited because it opens the door to see if it can be triggered, “Hauker said. “We want to know how to use that knowledge to create more. Genetic variation.. “

“The progeny of dividing algae is essentially a clone that generally does not increase colony diversity because it inherits DNA from only one parent cell. However, sex progeny receive DNA from two parents. To get it, it can be processed more quickly. Genetic adaptation. ”

Symbiotic populations that become more tolerant of environmental stress through evolution will be of direct benefit to corals. Protect the coastline From both Storms and related spills..

“These efforts are underway to try to breed corals, symbionts and other partners to enable the most stress-resistant colonies,” said Correa. “For coral symbionts, that means growing them under stressful conditions such as: high temperature And spread what was able to survive.

Sex and Symbiotic Life: Can Algae Hookups Help Corals Survive?

The type of coral studied by Rice University scientists is protected by dinophyceae (inset). Dinophyceae turn sunlight into food to feed and protect coral reefs. This study shows that algae can reproduce through sex and paves the way for accelerated evolution of strains that can better protect corals from the effects of climate change. Credit: Insert by Carsten Grupstra / Rice University. Coral images by Andrew Thurber / Oregon State University

“After the next generation, we will choose the ones that can’t tolerate these temperatures,” she said. “And now that we know that we have sex, we can do many other experiments to learn what combination of conditions causes sex more often in cells. It’s a gene. You can generate symbionts with new combinations and hopefully respond to some of those combinations by sowing the coral babies that host them, depending on heat resistance and other required properties. increase Symbiosis Ensure diversity and use those colonies to restore coral reefs. ”

Corals may require predator droppings

For more information:
RI Figueroa et al, Direct Evidence of Sex and Hypothesis on Symbiodiniaceae meiosis, Science report (2021). DOI: 10.1038 / s41598-021-98148-9

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Rice University

Quote: Sex and symbiotic organisms: Can algae hookups help coral survival? (September 22, 2021) Obtained September 22, 2021 from

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