Coral Reefs Act Like Sunscreen
ScienceNOW Daily News
November 30, 2009
Living on a coral reef is a bit like living in a tanning bed. As the sun's rays shine through the water and reflect off the reef, they strike corals, their symbiotic photosynthetic algae, and other inhabitants from above and below. So what keeps these creatures from being fried? A new study suggests that coral acts as a sunscreen, absorbing UV light and limiting the harm it inflicts on the reef's denizens.
Past studies have found that the calcium carbonate exoskeletons of corals that make up reefs fluoresce under ultraviolet light, suggesting that they absorb UV rays. To see if this material protects the organisms that live on reefs, marine biologist Ruth Reef of the University of Queensland in Australia and colleagues studied sea anemones (Aiptasia pulchella). These relatives of corals have similar tissues and are also home to symbiotic photosynthetic algae.
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