Ritual Attracts Biologists Seeking Genomic Clues to Coral Bleaching

The one-night-a-year spawning of massive star corals (Montastraea species) off of the Florida coast generates millions of infant corals, each of which has the potential to help replenish coral reefs that have undergone significant environmental damage in recent years. Even so, the chance that these bundles of eggs and sperm released in early September will result in healthy new individuals capable of replenishing reefs depends on many factors, most importantly the establishment of symbiosis between corals and the algal symbionts that live in, and nourish, them. That’s why Mary Alice Coffroth, Ph.D., associate professor of biological sciences in the University at Buffalo’s College of Arts and Sciences, and her technician, Cynthia Lewis, will travel in early September to the Florida Keys, where a team of scientists will be night-diving right alongside the millions of teeming egg-sperm bundles released from corals off of the coast of Key Largo. They will be obtaining samples as part of the first effort to use genomic methods to discover how symbiosis is established in hard corals. "Little is known about the molecular basis for establishing and maintaining these common biological relationships, which play a key role in the formation of coral reefs," said Coffroth.

Back to news