Many ecosystems are affected by climate change. Some ecosystems are more vulnerable than others. Corals are especially vulnerable. But corals in the Caribbean are proving to be resistant to climate change.
Scientists have studied that half of the coral species in the Caribbean have died millions of years ago due to climate change. However there are coral species that have survived, and scientists are now looking into them to see how they could adapt to a changing environment. These coral species have genetic variations in them that enable them to survive these changes.
Carlos Prada, lead author of the study and Earl S. Tupper post-doctoral fellow at STRI said that these genetic variations have helped the corals survive environmental changes. Monica Medina, a research associate at STRI and an associate Professor at Pennsylvania State University said that there is much implication for coral preservation with the study. A similar approach would be used to find out how to manage the corals that are threatened by climate change.
In order to make the study, the team gathered coral fossils. They used high-resolution geologic dating methods to know the age of the fossils. Another method used is genome sequencing to know the current and past numbers of corals found, according to Phys Org.
Through genetic sequencing, they have found that the corals have two copies of their genes, and some of them have a different copy. That makes those genes as genetic variants. Using this method, they have reconstructed the number of coral species in the past.
While many coral species died out, new ones came to take their place. Two of those new species grow very well in shallow waters, and those have doubled in number. Some species also began to go into new territories, as the International Business Times reports.
Sometimes species would decrease in genetic variation, since there are fewer of them in number. This is called a genetic bottleneck. The surviving coral species were able to get past that and develop new genetic variations that enabled them to survive the climate change then. This now being studied to find out how genetic variations can help other living organisms as well cope with climate change.
Scientists have seen that corals in the Caribbean are proving resistant to climate change. Through their study, they hope to learn more how organisms can cope as climate change continues today. An earlier report also says that coral reefs are being threatened by rising carbon dioxide.