The scientists’ findings suggest that corals will withstand climate change

Stylophora pistillata, a common stone coral in the Indo-Pacific Ocean. Credit: Kevin Wyman / Rutgers University

Charles Darwin, a British naturalist who advocated the theory of evolution, observed that corals form far-reaching structures, mostly made of limestone, that surround the tropical islands. He did not know how they performed this feat.

Now, scientists at Rutgers have shown that coral structures are made up of a biomineral that contains a highly organized organic mixture of proteins that resembles what is in our bones. Their study published in Journal of the Royal Society Interface,, shows for the first time that several proteins are spatially organized – a process that is crucial for the formation of a hard coral skeleton.

“Our research revealed an intricate network of bone proteins that interact spatially, which probably applies to all stone corals,” said Manjula P. Mummadisetti, who led the research while a postdoctoral fellow at the Rutgers Laboratory for Environmental Biophysics and Molecular Ecology, led by senior author Paul G. Falkowski. He is now a senior scientist at AVMBioMed in Pottstown, Pennsylvania. “It is important to understand the mechanisms of coral biomineralization and how these invaluable animals survive during the era of anthropogenic climate change.”

“Our findings suggest that corals will withstand climate change caused by human activities, based on the precision, robustness and resilience of their impressive hard skeleton creation process,” said Falkowski, a distinguished professor at Rutgers University’s School of Art and Science and the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences. New Brunswick.

Coral reefs protect shores threatened by erosion and storms and provide habitat for fish, nurseries and hatcheries. In fact, coral reefs provide food for about half a billion people, who also depend on them to make a living. However, the warming of ocean waters due to climate change puts corals at risk of deadly bleaching and disease. Acidic ocean waters, rising sea levels, unsustainable fishing, vessels damaging reefs, invasive species, marine litter and tropical cyclones pose additional threats, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Scientists at Rutgers studied the spatial interactions of proteins embedded in the skeleton of Stylophora pistillata, a common stone coral in the Indo-Pacific Ocean. Rocky corals have evolved over 400 million years, forming huge reefs in shallow subtropical and tropical seas. They are called “rainforests of the sea”.

Predicting the survival of corals based on how they have adapted to global climate change over millions of years requires an understanding, among other things, of how they build reefs by secreting calcium carbonate. This process is called biomineralization.

Scientists have shown that several proteins work together to create optimal conditions for biomineralization. These proteins are not found by chance, but are well organized in space, which the scientists explained in detail for the first time. Scientists have discovered spatial patterns of how a new mineral is created between the living tissue of an animal and its base or older skeleton.

How to recognize corals under stress due to heat

More information:
Manjula P. Mummadisetti et al., Spatial network of bone proteins in stone coral, The Royal Society Interface (2021). DOI: 10.1098 / rsif.2020.0859

Provided by Rutgers University

Citation: Scientists’ findings suggest that corals will withstand climate change (2021, April 8) downloaded April 8, 2021 from

This document is protected by copyright. Except for any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without written permission. The content is available for informational purposes only.