For the first time ever, living polyps were discovered in Mediterranean coral colonies that were previously thought to be completely dead by researchers who published their finding in the periodical Science Advances.
Diego K. Kersting from the Freie Universität Berlin and Cristina Linares from the University of Barcelona have studied 243 colonies of the endangered reef-builder coral Cladocora caespitosa along the Spanish coast of the Mediterranean Sea since 2002.
In their previous papers, the researchers reported mass mortalities caused by recurring marine heat waves.
Corals are made up of hundreds to thousands of tiny creatures called polyps that secrete a hard outer skeleton of calcium carbonate and attach themselves to the sea floor.
Marine heat waves kill these animals by either essentially cooking them alive, or by causing them to eject the symbiotic algae that live within them and provide them with nutrients and their characteristic colour, leaving only the whitish limestone structure behind.
An extreme marine heat wave killed almost a quarter of the coral colonies of Spain’s Columbretes Islands in 2003.
The researchers used 3D computer mapping to prove that the new structures are connected to the old, abandoned skeletons, so it is the same polyps staging a comeback. This process of “rejuvenescence” was known to exist in the fossil record, but this was the first time it was observed in living coral colonies.
Source: MTI – Hungarian News Agency
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