Coral Algae Have "Eyes," Study Says

<< Back to Page 1   Page 2 of 2

The algae, in turn, create oxygen for the coral animals, remove waste, and provide nutrients necessary for survival.

Considering how crucial this partnership is, it may be that roving zooxanthellae use their eyespots to scope out the most desirable digs—a possibility "we think is quite interesting," Koike said.

Young corals, in turn, may be using unknown "attraction mechanisms" to entice zooxanthellae to inhabit the reefs.

What's more, coral-dwelling algae have eyes only when they are seeking their reef homes, Koike added.

The organisms lose their sight once they are living inside their hosts.

By contrast, other types of algae that live inside giant clams keep their eye-like structures while inside their hosts.

Koike speculates this could be because the clam-dwelling algae want to escape the grip of the clam, which "farms" the algae and eats some of them each night.

Climate Concerns

Overall, Koike added, the more scientists know about how corals and their resident algae pair up, the better the chances of preventing corals' ongoing decline due to climate change.

Warmer seawater often causes corals to eject their colorful zooxanthellae roommates, "bleaching" the reefs and leaving the nutrient-deprived corals to die slowly.

"We must understand how this relationship is initiated … as soon as possible," Koike said.

Research appeared July 17 in the journal PLoS One.

<< Back to Page 1   Page 2 of 2


SOURCES AND RELATED WEB SITES

ADVERTISEMENT

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC'S PHOTO OF THE DAY

NEWS FEEDS     After installing a news reader, click on this icon to download National Geographic News's XML/RSS feed.   After installing a news reader, click on this icon to download National Geographic News's XML/RSS feed.

Get our news delivered directly to your desktop—free.
How to Use XML or RSS

National Geographic Daily News To-Go

Listen to your favorite National Geographic news daily, anytime, anywhere from your mobile phone. No wires or syncing. Download Stitcher free today.
Click here to get 12 months of National Geographic Magazine for $15.