Nature & Environment
Coral reefs endured death of the dinosaurs
By T.K. Randall
August 10, 2018 · 4 comments
Coral reefs may be more resilient than we thought. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 4.0 Wise Hok Wai Lum
A new study has revealed that coral reefs have been around for far longer than previously realized.
With vast swathes of the world's coral reefs expelling their symbiotic algae and turning deathly white due to the effects of rising ocean temperatures, the future of Australia's Great Barrier Reef and other major coral reef systems has been looking increasingly bleak.
According to a recent study by an international team of scientists however, coral reefs may actually be a lot more resilient to climate change than we have been giving them credit for.
For the research, scientists aimed to study the diversity of the algae species which have a symbiotic relationship with the coral - meaning that the two rely on one another to survive.
The findings indicated that this relationship may have actually existed for far longer than anyone had realized - up to 160 million years - which is 100 million years longer than previously thought.
The discovery implies that coral reefs have managed to survive several major catastrophic events including the devastating mass-extinction event that wiped out the dinosaurs.
"Our recognition of the true origin of those microbes that give corals life is major revelation," said study lead author Prof Todd LaJeunesse. "They are way older than was previously estimated."
The find could also mean that coral reefs may not be wiped out by modern day climate change.
"It tells us that they are incredibly resilient and will likely be around for a long time," said Prof LaJeunesse. "With that said, their survival of the current rapid changes in our climate may not be a pretty one. Ecosystem function may collapse."
Source: BBC News
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