An adult coral. (Credit: Hollie Putnam)
Climate change has had many powerful effects on ocean species, especially vulnerable ones like corals. However, according to a press release from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, it may be possible to help corals survive by using a unique method: pre-conditioning parent corals to the high temperatures and acidification that occur with climate change. The move could help young corals they produce to be better prepared to survive similar conditions in the future.
Although many species deal with environmental changes through mutation or through gradual evolution, researchers believe that the usual genetic adaptive mechanisms may not be fast enough to help corals survive current and future global climate change. Pre-conditioning parent corals by exposing them to higher temperatures and acidification, however, may be able to induce enough adaptive changes in the young corals to help them weather future climate changes.
Pre-conditioning can cause epigenetic changes, which means DNA strands are not changed, but some genes are made in greater quantities as part of an environmental response. The higher number of adaptive genes could help the young corals survive future temperature increases and acidification.
Top image: An adult coral. (Credit: Hollie Putnam)