A Molecular 'Toolkit' is Helping UH Biologists Understand Coral Growth

May 2, 2016

Credit NOAA's National Ocean Service / Flickr


Single swimming larva comprised of coral tissue containing algal symbionts.
Credit H Putnam


Two newly settled juveniles and a swimming larva on coralline algae.
Credit H Putnam

Marine scientists are using some biology basics to protect Hawai‘i’s coral. 

Corals release their offspring as swimming larvae that eventually attach themselves to reefs and begin to transform into the skeleton of a coral head.  Researchers with the Hawai‘i Institute for Marine Biology have identified the molecular toolkit used by coral to build their skeletons.

They’re planning to use that knowledge to find the best way to respond to ocean acidification and coral bleaching.  Dr. Ruth Gates is the Director of U-H’s Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology.  She says it’s like teaching an athlete to perform better under stress. 

The research team is working on experiments that expose coral to stressful environments to become more resilient to ocean change.