For the first time ever researchers from The Queensland University of Technology have documented through time-lapse photography, the event known as coral bleaching. Using a combination of technologies scientists were able to record what they dubbed “pulsed inflation” in-where the coral actively and violently expels its algae symbiont to combat the impacts of ocean warming. To extract this data Dr Luke Nothdurft from QUT’s marine facility in the School of Earth, Environmental and Biological Sciences placed individual Heliofungia actiniformis in controlled systems, raising the temperature by 6 degrees over a twelve hour period. “What’s really interesting is just how quickly and violently the coral forcefully evicted its resident symbionts, the Heliofungia (Long Tentacle Plate Coral) began ejecting the symbionts within the first two hours of us raising the water temperature of the system” said Mr Lewis, from QUT’s Science and Engineering Facility. Check out the video below to watch this behavior.
The resilience of Heliofungia has been studied before as the particular species has been noted for having a higher tolerance to increases in ocean temperature. “Coral provide Symbiodinium with protection and surface area for photosynthesis, while the excess sugars created by the algae supply the majority of the coral’s daily food requirements,” said Dr. Nothdurft. “Our H. actiniformis used a pulsed inflation to expel Symbiodinium over time — inflating their bodies to as much as 340 per cent of their normal size before suddenly and violently contracting and ejecting Symbiodinium through their oral openings over the four to to eight day duration of the experiments” Dr Nothdurft said. This study lends a lot of insight into both the symbiotic relationship as well as the reactionary behaviors of coral affected by the rising temperatures of our oceans. Further observations, and expanding the specimen range would certainly give both the hobbyist and conservational industries a much needed source for behavior evaluation. Read more here!