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Scientist shed new light on virus' role in coral bleaching

by Oregon State University

 Scientists at Oregon State University have shown that viral infection is involved in coral bleaching—the breakdown of the symbiotic relationship between corals and the algae they rely on for energy.

Funded by the National Science Foundation, the research is important because understanding the factors behind coral health is crucial to efforts to save the Earth's embattled reefs—between 2014 and 2017 alone, more than 75% experienced bleaching-level heat stress, and 30% suffered mortality-level stress.

The planet's largest and most significant structures of biological origin, coral reefs are found in less than 1% of the ocean but are home to nearly one-quarter of all known marine species. Reefs also help regulate the sea's carbon dioxide levels and are a vital hunting ground that scientists use in the search for new medicines.

Since their first appearance 425 million years ago, corals have branched into more than 1,500 species. A complex composition of dinoflagellates—including the algae symbiont—fungi, bacteria, archaea and viruses make up the coral microbiome, and shifts in microbiome composition are connected to changes in coral health.

The algae the corals need can be stressed by warming oceans to the point of dysbiosis—a collapse of the host-symbiont partnership.

Past Spotlights

Assessing the Potential for Restoration and Permaculture of Tasmania’s Giant Kelp Forests

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Implementing Closed Circuit Rebreathers as an Underwater Science Tool: A Case Study from the Middle

Since the introduction of closed-circuit rebreathers (CCR) to the commercial market in the mid 1990s, this technology has opened new frontiers to diving scientists while dramatically expanding the capacity for conducting underwater research within re

Seaweed Wars: Return of the Giant Kelp

A long time ago, in an ocean not so far away, a boat jetted across the calm swell of Point Loma. However, under the surface of the rolling waves a silent battle was raging. Algae just under the surface are locked in a constant fight for light and spa

Investigating the effects of local stressors on the life cycle of a brooding coral

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