Corals Defy New research published in the journal Global Change Biology on October 18 challenges the previously held beliefs about the resilience of corals in the face of environmental changes. Researchers, led by Assistant Professor Carly Kenkel from USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences, investigated the mountainous star coral, Orbicella faveolata, in Caribbean waters. Contrary to common assumptions, the study revealed that the offspring of a less heat-tolerant coral population demonstrated better survival rates when exposed to high temperatures than those from a heat-tolerant population.\r\n\r\nREAD: Christy Limited Awareness of HPV-Related Cancers Found Among Spanish-Speaking Sexual Minority Men\r\nCorals Defy\r\nThe team's findings have significant implications for coral reef conservation efforts, suggesting that the ability of coral offspring to withstand heat might be influenced by a combination of factors, including the history of parental bleaching and other environmental stressors. This challenges the notion that breeding more heat-tolerant corals is the sole solution for preserving these delicate ecosystems.\r\n\r\nTo examine heat resilience in corals, the scientists collected coral reproductive cells from two distinct coral reef sites in the Florida Keys, subjecting the coral larvae to heat stress conditions in controlled lab settings. Surprisingly, the less heat-tolerant coral population's offspring exhibited higher survival rates and displayed fewer signs of stress. The researchers emphasized the need for further studies to confirm these findings, highlighting that the research's focus was limited to a specific coral species and controlled laboratory conditions, whereas various external factors impact coral reefs in their natural habitats.\r\n\r\nMoving forward, the team plans to explore how corals adapt to environmental changes and pass on resilience, taking into account factors such as genetic diversity, historical influences, and the overall health of the reef. This comprehensive approach, they believe, is essential for effective coral conservation and restoration practices.\r\n\r\nYingqi Zhang, the first author of the study and former PhD student in Kenkel's USC Dornsife lab, now at the University of Utah, emphasized the study's potential for advancing reef management and restoration practices, particularly for this Caribbean coral species.\r\n\r\nThe study was a collaborative effort involving researchers from institutions such as the University of Alabama at Birmingham, The Australian Institute of Marine Science, the University of Miami, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and NOAA's Center for Weather and Climate Prediction.\r\n\r\nThis research signifies a step forward in unraveling the secrets of corals' ability to withstand increasing temperatures, offering hope for the development of innovative strategies to ensure the survival of these vital ecosystems in the face of global climate change.