Blog Tags: Coral
Some marine animals don’t have to put any effort into celebrating the holiday season, and instead, celebrate this special time all year long. With the holiday season in full swing, we’re spotlighting two small marine animals that are aptly named for their resemblance to two different holiday symbols: the Christmas tree worm and candy cane shrimp.
Ocean Roundup: Some Baby Coral Can Adapt to Ocean Acidification, Electric Eels Stun Prey with Electric Discharge, and More
- New research on baby corals shows hope for coral reefs in the face of climate change, finding that some baby corals are able to adapt to more acidic conditions. The research primarily focused on staghorn corals, which is a key reef-building species in the Indian and Pacific. The Guardian
You’ve probably encountered coral reefs in some form—whether that’s diving with them in tropical waters or seeing them depicted in movies, like Finding Nemo. As you know, coral reefs are absolutely breathtaking with their many vibrant colors and unique shapes. Not only are they beautiful, but coral reefs are said to be the most diverse marine ecosystem—home to about one-fourth of marine wildlife!
Ocean Roundup: Crabs Found to Look Out for Corals, 35,000 Walruses Gather on Alaskan Beach, and More
- New research shows that some coral may have natural “crab guards” that help them fight off predatory sea stars. Researchers found that coral off the island of Moorea in French Polynesia have a symbiotic relationship with these crabs, offering them shelter and nutrition in exchange for protection. Smithsonian
Ocean Roundup: 20 Coral Species to Gain Federal Protection, Shell Files New Plan for Arctic Drilling, and More
- The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced it will list 20 new species of coral as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, largely because of climate change. Found in both the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean, these corals are also threatened by overfishing, runoff, and coastal construction. The Associated Press
Oceans News: Massive Offshore Wind Farm Given the Green Light, Coral Reef Deaths Linked to Bacteria, and More
- White band disease has been killing off staghorn and elkhorn corals in the Caribbean since the 1970s, causing the outer layer of corals to turn white and peel off. Earlier this week, scientists linked three bacterial strains as causes for white band disease. New Scientist
Though you might not know it, California, Oregon, and Washington waters are home to deep-sea cold water corals that are every bit as brilliant and fascinating as their tropical counterparts. These corals explode with color and texture while playing an important role in our ocean ecosystems. Corals provide shelter, protection from strong currents and predators, and important areas for feeding, spawning, resting, and breeding.
When there’s invading seaweed in your neighborhood, who you gonna call? Well, a new study by scientists at Georgia Tech shows that when corals are threatened by toxic algae they use chemical signals to call for help from their “bodyguards”, the unassuming goby fish.
The study, carried out on coral reefs in Fiji and published in the November 8 issue of the journal Science, shows that within moments of the coral’s “911 call” the gobies respond to these chemical distress signals and pick off the offending seaweed. What’s in it for the fish? Gobies spend their entire lives with the same patch of coral, using it for protection from predators and even feeding on mucus produced by the coral. It comes as little surprise then that the goby takes any threat to its shelter very seriously.
"The fish are getting protection in a safe place to live and food from the coral," said Mark Hay, a biology professor at Georgia Tech and the study’s co-author. "The coral gets a bodyguard in exchange for a small amount of food. It's kind of like paying taxes in exchange for police protection."
For one species of goby, feeding on the toxic algae has the secondary effect of making the fish itself more toxic to predators.
Coral is under threat worldwide from pollution and ocean acidification from human activity. When corals are stressed, aggressive algae competing for sunlit patches of ocean floor can represent a death blow to coral reefs and the magnificent ecosystems they support. At least one fish, though, isn’t letting the reef go down without a fight.
The crown-of-thorns starfish is named for the brightly-colored spikes that coat its legs. This starfish can grow up to 16 inches across and has between 12 and 19 legs instead of the usual five -- that’s a lot of spikes!
These spikes hold poison that can cause temporary paralysis at the sting site and nausea in humans. Like other starfish, the crown-of-thorns can regrow arms. At the end of each of these arms is an eyespot that can detect light and darkness, although not color or shape.
Crown-of-thorns starfish are avid eaters of coral, and just one starfish can eat 13 square miles of coral each year. In order to eat the coral, the crown-of-thorns starfish pulls its stomach out of its body to cover the coral, then feeds through tiny hairs called cilia. All that remains of the coral is its white skeleton. Despite being voracious eaters, crown-of-thorn starfish can survive food shortages of up to six months by living off reserves.
Since the 1970s, plagues of crown-of-thorn starfish have been occurring more and more frequently, particularly in Australia's Great Barrier Reef. Scientists are still debating whether these are natural or have been caused by overfishing crown-of-thorn predators.
There aren’t many creatures interested in such a prickly snack, but a few mollusks and fish like the giant triton and the titan triggerfish play important roles keeping crown-of-thorn starfish populations under control.
Learn more about the crown-of-thorns starfish and other fascinating animals at Oceana’s marine encyclopedia.
- Ocean Roundup: Chevron Withdraws Drilling Plans from the Arctic, Peru Issues Ban on Shrimp Fishing, and More Posted Fri, December 19, 2014
- Ocean Roundup: Humpback Whales Communicate to Feed at Night, Bangladesh Oil Spill Threatening Sundarbans Mangroves, and More Posted Wed, December 17, 2014
- Holiday Creature Feature: Christmas Tree Worm and Candy Cane Shrimp Posted Fri, December 19, 2014
- Ocean Roundup: Filefish Use Chemical Scent to Camouflage, Bangladesh Oil Spill Threatening Endangered Dolphins, and More Posted Mon, December 15, 2014
- Act: GrubHub, Take Shark Fin Off the Menu! Posted Wed, December 17, 2014