Tough species of corals can go mobile and lay the foundations for new reefs in otherwise inhospitable areas, a study shows. Scientists have discovered that the rolling and resilient corals can act as a base upon which other corals attach and build reefs by creating their own stable habitats.
(From Phys.org) — The finding sheds new light on the mobile corals – called coralliths – which grow on pebbles or fragments of dead reefs, and can survive being buffeted by waves and ocean currents.
Their ability to establish themselves in harsh environments mean coralliths could play a key role in efforts to conserve and restore reef habitats, the team says.
Scientists from the Universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Heriot-Watt University made the discovery while doing fieldwork on coralliths in the tropical waters of the Maldives.
They identified a variety of structures – from pea-sized balls to boulders several feet across – in places where corals would not otherwise be able to settle and survive.
The finding suggests many existing coral habitats – particularly those in areas dominated by sand and rubble – may have been created by coralliths.
Coralliths have previously been identified in the fossil record, and evidence suggests that they have played a role in reef formation since at least the last Ice Age, researchers say.
The study is published in the journal Scientific Reports. It was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council.
Dr Sebastian Hennige, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences, said: “For years we assumed that coral reefs, and small patches of coral in sandy habitats, needed stable ground on which to build. Now we know that corals can engineer their own stable environment from nothing, and create habitats for all sorts of species in places that we thought were unsuitable for reef formation.”
Dr Heidi Burdett, of Heriot-Watt University, said: “This discovery makes us question many things…
Read the full article here: https://phys.org/news/2017-10-tough-species-corals-mobile-foundations.html