A Fine Discovery
Some coral may be resistant to acidification, reefs still doomed
The world’s oceans are on track to be more acidic by 2100 than they’ve been for 20 million years, thanks to our fiendish friend carbon dioxide. But research by Israeli scientists shows that the coral polyps living in underwater reefs may be able to survive, even as the reefs themselves are destroyed. Marine zoologist Maoz Fine put two Mediterranean species to the test and found that, while the reef skeletons started to dissolve when acid levels rose, the polyps reproduced and grew to an unrecognizable size. “Our students — everyone we showed — thought we were joking” about which species were in the tanks, Fine says. He also reports that the polyps became self-reliant instead of being part of a system that is normally “like a kibbutz. All members are equal and share everything; if one polyp hunts plankton, it shares it among the community.” When normal conditions were restored, the polyps shrank back down and rebuilt their skeletons. Which is maybe the coolest thing we’ve heard all week.