Mechanics Of Coral Sunscreen Explored

Credit: University of Southampton
Credit: University of Southampton

Working under tightly controlled conditions in a laboratory and on the Great Barrier Reef, a team of researchers from the Coral Reef Laboratory of the University of Southampton have produced evidence that the pink and purple chromoproteins evident in certain corals can act as a sunscreen for their symbiotic algae.

Dr Jorg Wiedenmann, Senior Lecturer of Biological Oceanography and Head of the University’s Coral Reef Laboratory, said: “The beautiful pink and purple hues that are produced by the coral host are often evoked by chromoproteins; pigments that are biochemically related to the green fluorescent protein (GFP) of the jellyfish Aequorea victoria. In contrast to their green glowing counterpart, the chromoproteins take up substantial amounts of light, but they don’t re-emit light.”

Offering a better understanding of how corals respond to environmental stress, it is hoped that the discovery may help scientists to predict developments on coral reefs that are exposed to climate change and various other forms of disturbance.

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