Hawaiʻi Institute of Marine Biology researchers recently announced two unexpected discoveries about corals—
- Symbiodinium resides in a majority of black coral species sampled in waters up to 400 meters deep off Hawaiʻi. The algae photosynthesize nutrients for coral in shallower waters. The algae’s role isn’t known in the deeper, low-light environments, but the finding suggests Symbiodinium has a broad habitat range, Daniel Wagner and his co-authors report in the Oct. 20, 2010 Proceedings of the Royal Society B online.
- Wild variation in the shape, color and growth form of coral colonies can mislead taxonomists. Zac Forsman and colleagues examined genetic and structural features of seven Hawaiian species from the common genus Montipora, including three—Hawaiian Reef Coral, Blue Rice Coral and Sandpaper Rice Coral—nominated for protection under the Endangered Species Act. Two previously unknown species complexes could reflect either variation within a species or a new species early in the process of forming, they write in the Dec. 2, 2010 PLoS One.
UH is also involved in two efforts to preserve corals that are endangered by over harvesting and environmental degradation.
- Smithsonian Institution scientists have created the first frozen bank of Hawaiian corals at HIMB facilities on Coconut Island. The bank contains frozen sperm and embryonic cells from mushroom and rice corals that could be used to reseed reefs. Read more.
- At UH’s Waikīkī Aquarium, staff members cultivate coral using techniques developed at the aquarium to simulate sunlight and sea flow and to build a coral DNA database. The program preserves seed stock and provides corals to researchers and reputable public aquariums who would otherwise collect from the wild.