Nav: Home

Surprising coral spawning features revealed

August 18, 2020

When stony corals have their renowned mass spawning events, in sync with the moon's cycle, colonies simultaneously release an underwater "cloud" of sperm and eggs for fertilization. But how do the sperm and eggs survive several hours as plankton, given threats from predators, microbes and stresses such as warming waters?

A Rutgers-led team has discovered some surprising features in coral sperm and eggs (collectively called gametes), according to a study in the journal PeerJ.

While coral eggs are large and sperm cells are tiny and far more numerous, the scientists showed for the first time that eggs and sperm appear to be surprisingly similar when it comes to the gene functions they express during the planktonic stage. Proteins encoded by genes, in a process called gene expression, play many critical roles and perform most of the work in cells.

The scientists also identified two genes that may be involved in how coral sperm and eggs recognize each other in dynamic ocean waters, allowing fertilization.

"Much more attention needs to be paid to coral gametes because both egg and sperm are vulnerable to climate change and other insults," said senior author Debashish Bhattacharya, a distinguished professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. "It goes without saying that without robust sperm and egg, the coral reproductive cycle will be significantly weakened. Therefore, we need to understand in more detail how natural selection has acted on coral gametes to ensure their survival, leading to successful fertilization."

Coral reefs protect coastlines from erosion and storms; serve as habitat, nursery and spawning grounds for fish; and provide food for about 500 million people as well as their livelihoods, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. But corals are threatened by global climate change that warms the ocean and leads to coral bleaching, disease, sea-level rise and ocean acidification. Other threats include unsustainable fishing, land-based pollution, tropical storms, damage from vessels, marine debris and invasive species.

By analyzing the genes of the Hawaiian stony coral Montipora capitata, the scientists revealed a blueprint for how coral eggs and sperm function. The next steps include further analyses of coral genomes to identify the substances they produce to ensure their survival and fertilization. The scientists are also interested in investigating coral species that don't release sperm and eggs into the water before fertilization and comparing the results to the stony coral study.

"Our results pave the way for future genetic investigations, particularly in the context of climate change influences on the marine environment," Bhattacharya said.
-end-
The lead author is Julia Van Etten, a Rutgers doctoral student. Alexander Shumaker, another Rutgers doctoral student, contributed to the study, as did Tali Mass, a former post-doc at Rutgers and who is now a senior lecturer at the University of Haifa, and Hollie M. Putnam, a University of Rhode Island assistant professor.

Rutgers University

Related Climate Change Articles:

Mysterious climate change
New research findings underline the crucial role that sea ice throughout the Southern Ocean played for atmospheric CO2 in times of rapid climate change in the past.
Mapping the path of climate change
Predicting a major transition, such as climate change, is extremely difficult, but the probabilistic framework developed by the authors is the first step in identifying the path between a shift in two environmental states.
Small change for climate change: Time to increase research funding to save the world
A new study shows that there is a huge disproportion in the level of funding for social science research into the greatest challenge in combating global warming -- how to get individuals and societies to overcome ingrained human habits to make the changes necessary to mitigate climate change.
Sub-national 'climate clubs' could offer key to combating climate change
'Climate clubs' offering membership for sub-national states, in addition to just countries, could speed up progress towards a globally harmonized climate change policy, which in turn offers a way to achieve stronger climate policies in all countries.
Review of Chinese atmospheric science research over the past 70 years: Climate and climate change
Over the past 70 years since the foundation of the People's Republic of China, Chinese scientists have made great contributions to various fields in the research of atmospheric sciences, which attracted worldwide attention.
A CERN for climate change
In a Perspective article appearing in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Tim Palmer (Oxford University), and Bjorn Stevens (Max Planck Society), critically reflect on the present state of Earth system modelling.
Fairy-wrens change breeding habits to cope with climate change
Warmer temperatures linked to climate change are having a big impact on the breeding habits of one of Australia's most recognisable bird species, according to researchers at The Australian National University (ANU).
Believing in climate change doesn't mean you are preparing for climate change, study finds
Notre Dame researchers found that although coastal homeowners may perceive a worsening of climate change-related hazards, these attitudes are largely unrelated to a homeowner's expectations of actual home damage.
Older forests resist change -- climate change, that is
Older forests in eastern North America are less vulnerable to climate change than younger forests, particularly for carbon storage, timber production, and biodiversity, new research finds.
Could climate change cause infertility?
A number of plant and animal species could find it increasingly difficult to reproduce if climate change worsens and global temperatures become more extreme -- a stark warning highlighted by new scientific research.
More Climate Change News and Climate Change Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: The Power Of Spaces
How do spaces shape the human experience? In what ways do our rooms, homes, and buildings give us meaning and purpose? This hour, TED speakers explore the power of the spaces we make and inhabit. Guests include architect Michael Murphy, musician David Byrne, artist Es Devlin, and architect Siamak Hariri.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#576 Science Communication in Creative Places
When you think of science communication, you might think of TED talks or museum talks or video talks, or... people giving lectures. It's a lot of people talking. But there's more to sci comm than that. This week host Bethany Brookshire talks to three people who have looked at science communication in places you might not expect it. We'll speak with Mauna Dasari, a graduate student at Notre Dame, about making mammals into a March Madness match. We'll talk with Sarah Garner, director of the Pathologists Assistant Program at Tulane University School of Medicine, who takes pathology instruction out of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

What If?
There's plenty of speculation about what Donald Trump might do in the wake of the election. Would he dispute the results if he loses? Would he simply refuse to leave office, or even try to use the military to maintain control? Last summer, Rosa Brooks got together a team of experts and political operatives from both sides of the aisle to ask a slightly different question. Rather than arguing about whether he'd do those things, they dug into what exactly would happen if he did. Part war game part choose your own adventure, Rosa's Transition Integrity Project doesn't give us any predictions, and it isn't a referendum on Trump. Instead, it's a deeply illuminating stress test on our laws, our institutions, and on the commitment to democracy written into the constitution. This episode was reported by Bethel Habte, with help from Tracie Hunte, and produced by Bethel Habte. Jeremy Bloom provided original music. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.     You can read The Transition Integrity Project's report here.