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Biotech Earth Science

Genetic Rescue Efforts Could Help Coral Shrug Off Warmer Oceans 167

The Washington Post reports that research published last week in the journal Science indicates that coral reefs may be less vulnerable to ocean temperature changes than has been widely believed, especially given human intervention. A slice: Some corals already have the genes needed to adapt to higher ocean temperatures, and researchers expect those genes will naturally migrate and mix with corals under stress over time ... And that process could potentially be sped up artificially. ... Giving coral evolution a boost isn't an entirely new concept. Some scientists have already suggested genetically modifying corals through artificial breeding, or doing the same for the tiny microbes that live inside corals and are essential to reef growth.
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Genetic Rescue Efforts Could Help Coral Shrug Off Warmer Oceans

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  • by Karmashock ( 2415832 ) on Sunday June 28, 2015 @04:36AM (#50005413)

    You know those islands made out dead coral? Yeah... how did those get there? The thing is that coral is really really sensitive and dies really really easily. But its a species with a survival strategy more like bacteria then barn owls.

    Yes, they die... they die easily and they die in huge numbers. But there are huge numbers of them to die. And while some die, some also survive. And this means that coral actually evolves very quickly. Any adaptation tends to not make it less death prone but the new strain of coral is happy in the new ocean conditions.

    Change the temperate of the water? Coral dies.
    Touch the coral? The coral dies.
    Change the ocean chemistry in anyway? The coral dies.

    Its super sensitive. But that's okay. Because while some coral dies some lives. And the coral that survives won't die to whatever killed their sires.

    This is Tuesday for coral. Nothing new.

    Does that mean we should f' up the coral and not care about damage we do the environment? Of course not... that's f'ing stupid. However, we also need to be less ignorant in the way we respond to issues.

    I'm seeing people freak out about tress being cut down to make paper for example and the morons complaining about this tend to not realize that the trees being cut down were literally planted like we plant corn to produce paper/lumber trees.

    Paper is as renewable a resource as cucumbers. We're not running out of either.

    And the coral situation is analogous in that people are not grasping that the resiliency of coral is not in that it doesn't die but that it dies and adapts.

    We have this big wide open beautiful world and it is full of many diverse species that all have different survival strategies. The strategies of ground squirrels are not going to be the same as the strategies of honey bees or the strategies of pine trees or the strategies of coral.

    Its the 21st century, chaps. Stop freaking out like a bunch of fucking peasants.

    • You're right! Some coral will survive, and its progeny will be able to better survive.

      But I don't care about that, because that's going to take thousands of years. What I'm worried about NOW is whether the ecosystem in 20 years will be able to support another 500 million people. You didn't address that at all. And stop thinking your opinions make you better than others. It's arrogant and creates ignorance.
      • No, it doesn't take thousands of years. As I said, they have a survival strategy more akin to bacteria or algae. They die easily but they adapt very quickly.

        You've seen the bacteria become resistant to anti bionics. it is a similar situation.

        You kill 98 percent of the bacteria... and what remains is resistant. Eventually if you keep dosing the same bacteria with the same anti biotics... it will become immune.

        Which doesn't mean you can't kill 98 percent of it again with something else. And of course, if you

        • I'd be curious to know how well they deal with pH changes. We already know, from observing coral bleaching during short term warm periods, that they are touchy and somewhat feeble; but the survivors are capable of recolonizing, or building atop depending on the details, the skeletons of their fallen.

          If those structures come under attack, or if wringing calcium ions out of the water becomes more difficult and energy intensive, they may have larger problems. As might, unfortunately, a surprisingly large nu
          • Its nothing new. The "bleaching" people talk about is something coral just does when conditions fall out of the very narrow specs that permit it to live.

            What is not understood by many is that these specs can and are adjusted. So yes... specs change and the coral dies. Possibly a lot of it. But that just means it has to change its specs to whatever the new standard is... and it does that... and new coral grows on top of the dead coral... which is how those islands in the Caribbean were formed.

            This has been g

            • That's why I expressed curiosity about pH, rather than temperature. We know that some amount of temperature variation leads to survivable bleach/recolonize cycles; but a shift in the direction of making calcium-based structures more expensive to build and maintain under water could be quite different in impact.
              • Specifically to your question then, ocean pH has fluctuated over time... in some cases quite dramatically.

                There was an expedition not long ago that was pulling up core samples to get a history of it... the cores went back something like 53 million years. And yeah... the pH moves about quite a bit.

                Again, coral is a very ancient species. You don't get species that old unless they're tough sons of bitches.

                We're talking about a species that survived vast changes in the earth's biosphere. We're talking about a s

      • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

        Coral cores prove, coral reefs are destroyed by changes in sea level. The last big change being a few hundred metres up. So they likley will suffer this time round to. Not really the biggest problem. All that stuff on land going through a rising surf zone will wash huge quantities of debris and pollutants into the sea, now that is the real problem.

        Want change, easy, target people's greed. Start running around tagging builds with "UNDERWATER FRONT - PROPERTY VALUE ZERO" stickers and signs, all for sales s

    • Maybe if you would just started thinking before you write something, just for once.

      Yes, corals die easily, and some survive and adapt. But only if the change is small enough to allow the survival of some. If the change is strong enough or happens too quickly, there won't be any survivals.

      And as for trees, sure the trees were planted. But they were planted where the trees used to grow and were cut in first place.

      It is the same in every post you write. You accuse others of being stupid but you yourself are un

      • Saving the corals might actually be the easy part: It wouldn't be a fun job, unless you are a real saltwater aquarium masochist; but taking 'cuttings' and propagating them in captivity is reasonably well understood, at least for the ones that have historically merited the attention. Even if you can't modify them to make them more durable, there is lots of ocean currently too cold for a given coral ecosystem that, if warmed, will become a viable location for transplants from the areas that are becoming too w
      • Oh this should be good... *gets more popcorn and lube*

        No, coral has adapted to extreme changes in the past. Coral is killed very easily by almost any tiny change. A small change in temperature kills coral. Introducing almost any chemical that it isn't familiar with will kill it. Any kind of abrasion by anything but water will often kill it.... Really it just goes on and on.

        And yet it is one of the most ancient species on this planet. Why don't you actually think about that for a change? How has such an anci

    • But its a species

      Anyone who can refer to "coral" as a species clearly has such a strong grasp on biology as to not be worth paying attention to.

      I'm not a biologist in any significant form, but I didn't spend a large chunk of a year learning to identify different classes and genera of coral as fossils (for dating the rocks in which their fossils are found) without getting the message that there have been many, many different species of coral. And I didn't get horrible sunburn the first time I snorkelled on

      • ... that's more than a little pedantic. I use the term species instead of class and so you get to discount the rest of my position regardless of whether it was valid or not?

        That type of rhetoric is interested not in honest evaluation but in political domination and censorship.

        Your attitude has no credibility in a scientific discussion.

        Adjust your stance to one that is not designed for politics and we can continue. If you refuse to alter your tack then you're simply admitting a lack of intellectual curiosity

        • Using the wrong word for the wrong concept is a tactic that Humpty Dumpty discussed in 1870-odd. It's reputation hasn't improved.

          ... that's more than a little pedantic.

          If you want a scientific discussion, then get used to pedantry, and saying precisely what you mean using precisely the technical terminology of the field, unless you want people to think that you mean what you say, instead of what you mean.

          For example, you say Change the temperate of the water? Coral dies. / Touch the coral? The coral dies.

          • You're really having a hard time processing general statements as general statements.

            I could be specific, use all the scientifically accurate terms, and go through the various processes... but that is contextually unnecessary because I was making a GENERAL point.

            Simply sitting there and being pedantic is not a refutation of my point. It is at best a personal confession on your part as to the context of the discussion... the first point being that this is an internet chat forum and a certain amount of latitu

            • . the first point being that this is an internet chat forum and a certain amount of latitude is expected in this context


              read what the site's sub-title is : News for Nerds.

              I don't see any reason to lower the expectations I've placed on other users for the last 17 or so years (I've forgotten when I signed up. I know I was still on dial-up ; Slashdot was one of the things that persuaded me to get an automatic dial up account instead of manually dialling up). If you're a nerd (which you self-identify as

BLISS is ignorance.