Coloured Pigments and Coral Bleaching?

Mike Matz matz at
Tue May 28 10:44:34 EDT 2002

Good question! I myself saw a case when the animal was bleached, but
retained red fluorescent coloration. This was not on the reef, though - this
was a specimen of corallimorph shipped over from Vietnam, on aquarium
business. The bleaching was apparently a consequence of some stress
conditions during shipping. By the way, that guy recovered nicely after
that - regained brown coloration in a week or so in aquarium. It is from
this specimen we cloned the first red-emitting GFP-like protein. The funny
thing is - if the specimen was not bleached upon arrival, we would probably
overlook the red fluorescence of the host tissue, it becomes really
inconspicious as soon as the brown color is back.

The fact that corals go completely white upon bleaching on reefs, with no
host-tissue colors remaining, might be a consequence of much worse stress
than my aquarium corallimorph suffered. But still, this completeness of
bleaching does seem weird to me. The dissapearance of host pigments might be
linked to zooxanthellae loss, but just as well, it might not. I am not aware
of any reports that would address this.

Please share your opinions.


Mikhail V. Matz, Ph.D.

Whitney Laboratory
University of Florida
9505 Ocean Shore blvd
St Augustine FL 32080-8610, USA
phone +1 904 461 4025
fax +1 904 461 4008

----- Original Message -----
From: "Rupert Ormond" <rupert.ormond at>
To: <coral-list at>
Sent: Tuesday, May 28, 2002 5:48 AM
Subject: Coloured Pigments and Coral Bleaching?

> Dear Coral Listers
> I would be grateful if any of the coral physiologists involved in
> work could offer any details on a question that's been put to me a couple
> of times.
> The colourful pigments (blues, pinks etc.) that are charateristic of many
> shallow water corals (Acropora etc.) are, as I understand it, located in
> the coral tissue itself.  Whereas the pigments present in the
> are more or less brown in colour.  If coral bleaching (due to elevated
> SSTs) is principally the result of expulsion or loss of zooxanthellae,
> why do the corals go completely white.  i.e. what happens to the more
> colourful coral pigments? Are they damaged as well but independently by
> temperature induced failure of protective systems?
> sincerely,
> Rupert Ormond
> Dr. Rupert Ormond
> Director,
> University Marine Biological Station Millport,
> Isle of Cumbrae,
> UK  KA28 0EG
> email: rupert.ormond at
> tel: (44)-01475-530581
> fax: (44)-01475-530601
> web:
> ~~~~~~~
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