[Coral-List] Corals upgrade algae to 'beat the heat'

Tim Wijgerde t.wijgerde at coralscience.org
Tue May 26 12:52:19 EDT 2009

Dear Thomas,

thanks for the posting. Although my experiences as
a biologist are still limited, I have read most of the climate/coral reef
papers published during the last couple of years. I must agree with Prof.
Hoegh-Guldberg that symbiont shuffling only is a 'nugget of hope', as Dr.
Madeleine van Oppen already defined it in one of her recent papers on the

I guess there are two possibilities:

The coral bleaches, and takes up zooxanthellae de novo (new zoox
from the water column, expelled by other corals through mucus for
example). These new ones may be clade D, and bestow higher thermal
tolerance to their new host corals. 

2. There is simply a shift
in dominant algae type. If this one is true, that would be less
optimistic. It would simply mean that tough corals already have thermally
tolerant algae inside of them, however these are somewhat 'dormant', and
are outcompeted by a different clade. After bleaching, some of the algae
may still be retained in the coral tissue. This may allow the previously
dormant clade D population to become the dominant algae type. It implies
that tough corals already require tough clade D algae.

would be favourable if other corals not hosting clade D at all would be
able to shift symbiont clade, as described in option no. 1.

may be missing other possibilities here, so correct me if my statements so
far are incomplete. 

I guess it would be very interesting to
bleach corals in experimental setups, and inoculate them with different
clades, including clade D. You would of course have to prove that no zoox
are retained after the induced bleaching. Proper controls could also show
that without inoculation after bleaching, no recovery is seen (or no
recovery with the clade of interest) .


Wageningen University

Op Di, 26 mei, 2009 18:00, schreef
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> Today's Topics:
>    1. Faust, Medea, coral
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>    2. Corals upgrade algae to 'beat
the heat' (Thomas Moore)
> Message: 1
> Date: Mon, 25 May 2009 05:38:04
> From: Charles Birkeland <charlesb at hawaii.edu>
> Subject: [Coral-List] Faust, Medea, coral reefs
> To:
coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> Message-ID:
<fc2ec9225a595.4a1a2ebc at hawaii.edu>
> Content-Type:
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>  -  -  -  <!-- 
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	mso-footer-margin:.5in; 	mso-paper-source:0;} div.Section1
	{page:Section1;} -->   Humanity is to the biosphere as COTS is
> occasionally to Indo-Pacific coral reefs.? In both cases, the
> deterioration of the system occurs when the developing population
> endowed with an extraordinary richness of resources with
which it expands
> out of control, and the lack of control stems
from natural selection
> acting on the individual genotype and not
on the community or ecosystem.
> Now the eminent paleontologist
Peter Ward has just published a book on
> his Medea hypothesis in
which he presents geologic evidence that some of
> the mass
extinctions in Earth?s history have been caused in the same way,
by episodes of prokaryotic life becoming system-destructive when they
> too successful (the Siberian Traps, the
  Deccan Traps and the KT asteroid notwithstanding).
>   This
allegory of Faust has been on the conscience of thinkers for
centuries. It has been told in philosophy (Goethe), plays (Marlowe),
> operas ( Gounod, Boito), with other major musical works
> Schumann, Mahler, Liszt), painting (Rembrandt), poetry
and novels.?
> Faust was a person for whom the devil agreed to
provide knowledge and
> success, but when Faust reached the zenith
of human happiness, the devil
> collected on his soul. Faust was
happy with the deal because he was
> confident the moment of
payback would never come. Knowledge has given
> humanity
technology and global economics, and with this we (north
continental mainland societies) have been able to develop a lavish
> existence by use in a couple centuries of the stores of petroleum
> it has taken organisms hundreds of millions of years to
accrue. ?Our
> byproducts are changing the climate as have,
according to Ward?s Medea
> hypothesis, the byproducts of very
successful prokaryotes leading to
> mass extinctions in the p
>  ast. Technology and global economics has allowed us to
overharvest the
> presumed infinite stocks of fish in the ocean
and to reduce the slowly
> accrued arable topsoils to an
unprecedented extent.?
>   Humans are not the only eukaryote with
Faustian traits. The
> crown-of-thorns seastar has the gifts of a
morphology with large
> food-intake to biomass ratio as a juvenile
that provides for rapid
> growth to maturity and an elastic
disk-like structure in early
> reproductive years that allows for
a broad range of available prey (1989
> American Scientist 77:
154-163). Furthermore, the extraordinary
> fecundity of COTS
provides it with the capacity to capitalize rapidly
> when the
larvae are lucky and provided with a dense larval food supply
(?Faust? is derived from Latin ?lucky? or ?auspicious?).? When the COTS
> rises to prominence by overexploitation? of? its resource, the
> productive times are followed by a payback of precipitous
> decline.? Furthermore, the morphology for juveniles
becomes a liability
> when the adult grows to over 50 cm in
diameter. Natural selection is not
> able to modify these traits
because the (proximally) very successful?
> COTS reproduce before
the payback, i
>  n the same way natural selection has
not helped humans with Alzheimer?s
> or Parkinson?s diseases.? In
addition, phytoplankton blooms associated
> with spawning are too
irregular to allow consistent natural selection.
>   On the global
scale, Peter Ward made a compelling case that we should be
> wary
of the popular Gaia hypothesis that life regulates the environment
> in a way that tends to keep an environment favorable to life.
?Gaia? is
> the ?good mother? and the classical Greek culture
referred to her as the
> benevolent Mother Earth. Medea was the
unhappy wife of Jason that killed
> their children out of
revenge.? Medea may be an appropriate image for
> the effects of
the Siberian Traps (at the Permian-Triassic change) and
> the
effects of the Deccan Traps (Cretaceous-Cenozoic boundary), but for
> Ward?s depiction of most of the mass extinctions I would think of
> Earth as not vengeful, but rather an overly generous
mother that
> sometimes spoiled her children and provided no
discipline. Perhaps
> ?there was an old lady that lived in a shoe.
She had so many children,
> she didn?t know what to do.? ?Faust is
the complementary allegory that
> when a being is given
extraordinary success, natural selection wo
>  rks on
the traits of the individual genotype and does not operate on the
> future impacts on systems.
>   (James Lovelock, the
original author of the Gaia hypothesis (British),
> has just
published a new book on ?The
Vanishing Face of Gaia? in which
> he says ?We all need modern Churchills to lead us from the
> flabby, consensual thinking of the late twentieth
century and to bind
> our nations with a single-minded effort?? to
correct for the fact that
> we are pushing the system too far.
?His referral to Churchill was in a
> comparison with Churchill?s
guiding the British away from the common
> belief in the 1930s
that if we were just complacently peaceful, that the
> threat of
World War II would go away. We should not complacently rely on
Mother Earth.)
>   As with the gift of morphology of COTS,
humanity has been endowed with
> technology that has enabled us to
overharvest the seemingly infinite
> oceans. With scuba and
nightlights, we have the capacity to rapidly
> deplete islands of
the populations of vulnerable large coral-reef fishes
> such as
the Bolbometopon muricatum and Cheilinus undulatus. The ?Freedom
to Fish Act? keeps being proposed in Hawaii and on the mainland US, but
> in French Polynesia, Palau, Fiji, American Samoa, and Queensland,
> are laws against the use of scuba while spearfishing. ?It
seems that the
> possibilities for a separation of spearfishing
and scuba in the US
> mainland and Hawaii are almost nil, although
I believe an NGO is
> planning to approach the matter in Hawaii.
?It is my understanding that
> Australia has also explicitly
included the Precautionary Principle in
> some governmental
decisions.? Why do Australians and some Pacific
> islanders behave
more responsibly? When one thinks of the rich soils of
> Illin
>  ois, Iowa, Indiana, and elsewhere in the Midwest, and
the oilfields of
> Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and the coalfields of
the Appalachians, etc,
> vis-?-vis the central expanses of
Australia, and the total resources of
> the individual tropical
Pacific islands, one cannot help but wonder if
> Australia and
Pacific islands keep within the system like COTS in
> oligotrophic
waters, while the US in the last 2 centuries has been given
> an
endowment like Faust and expanded out of control like COTS spawning in
> ?a phytoplankton bloom.
>   Decades ago, Bob Johannes said
that the fisheries and other
> extractive-resource endeavors from
coral reefs should be managed at the
> village or watershed level.
The role of the national government should
> be to provide
protection of the villages against intrusion by foreign or
large-scale corporations, but to otherwise let the management decisions
> be made at the village level. ?Bob Johannes? wise admonition may
> to global economics as well. Township savings and loan
institutions have
> usually been sustainable because of careful?
assessments of reliability
> and abilities of the clients to pay
their mortgages.? Large-scale banks
> often have been Faustian and
have rapidly grown out of control by
> building on foundations? of
mortgages that cannot be repaid, and with
> chain-mail economics
(e.g., Ponzi-schemes), rather than the responsible
> policies of
local savings and loans. The escape of CEOs by golden
> parachutes
illustrates that altruism is not in our genes when in large
>   Steve Jameson (2008 Marine Pollution
Bulletin 56: 1513-1514) points out
> that when operating as very
large bodies such as corporations and
> nations, we do not have
the genetic capacity to make rational decisions
> for
>   Rebuilding community-based management may lead to
more responsible
> behavior by individuals (Reef Encounter 34:
34-35), but while behavior
> of individuals may be rational, large
groups are Faustian.? According to
> NGO websites, more than 770
companies hired an estimated 2,340 lobbyists
> to derail federal
policy on climate change in the past year, with more
> than four
climate lobbyist for every member of the US Congress, with
estimated expenditures on lobbying against climate change topping $90
> million last year.? In his new book supporting his Medea
> Peter Ward is concerned that on a global scale,
humanity is behaving
> like prokaryotes did when leading up to
some previous mass extinctions.
> Although other species like COTS
and locusts and Caulerpa taxifolia can
> be Faustian on a local
scale, humanity is the only eukaryote that seems
> to have the
potential of matching the effects of prokaryotes at times in
> the
geologic past. However, as with the use of scuba with spearfish

>  ing, the US was outstanding in not signing the Kyoto
Convention. Most
> other nations were more responsible.? Perhaps
as we use up our resources,
> we can assume a less profligate
lifestyle and develop more responsible
> behavior as a nation. Can
this happen before we push the system beyond
> the tipping
> Message: 2
Date: Mon, 25 May 2009 12:28:13 +1000
> From: Thomas Moore
<thomas.moore.is at gmail.com>
> Subject: [Coral-List] Corals
upgrade algae to 'beat the heat'
> To:
coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> Message-ID:
	<bad14ef30905241928o39bd5abfm62ce832fe3491209 at mail.gmail.com>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1
i've just read the following article in the New Scientist magazine,
> about how corals can 'upgrade their symbiotic algae so that they
> survive the bleaching that occurs in waters warming under
> change'
> do you agree that this means that the corals are 'able
to adapt to
> their local conditions', as well as adapt to
projected climate change?
> looks like professor ove
hoegh-guldberg doesn't agree:
> 'To somehow
imply that coral reefs are not facing problems from
> climate
change because Oliver and Palumbi found a few tough coral
genotypes in a rock pool, verges on the incredible.'

> I already posted this to ove hoegh-guldberg's site, but: how
> 'swapped out' defined? i thought that 'exogenous acquisition'
> entirely 'new' symbionts was still to be proven? if so, this
> that the corals that don't contain 'heat sensitive' algae
> selectively weeded out under warming seas? what proportion
of corals
> contain 'heat sensitive' algae?

> Sant?,
> Thomas
>><((((?> -----  ><((((?>
------  ><((((?> ------  ><((((?>
Thomas Moore
> thomasmooreis at gmail.com
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Wijgerde, M.Sc.
Molecular marine biologist
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