Corals clone in bad weather

2012-03-02 12:00
Sydney - Coral offspring spawned from Australia's Great Barrier Reef clone themselves when rough weather hits with not all of the fragile embryos perishing in big waves, research showed on Friday.

Scientists from the Australian Institute of Marine Science discovered the previously unknown reproductive strategy, which shows that coral offspring can form genetic clones of themselves before they settle and mature.

Coral "offspring" are usually the result of sexual reproduction - fragile eggs fertilised either before or after being released into the water - and are then carried by ocean currents before settling at new locations.

The new study, published in the journal Science, found that if there was some turbulence in the water such as a storm, these offspring often cloned to create genetic replicas of themselves rather than break up.

"We originally thought that if the embryos were fragmented by wave action that that the fragments may not develop into larvae," said researcher Andrew Negri.

"However, when we investigated this we found that a high proportion of the fragments were successful in developing into smaller viable clones of the original embryo.

"Although smaller, these clones developed normally into coral larvae, eventually attaching and metamorphosing into coral polyps."

'Maximising impact'

The researchers said they suspected the fact that fertilised coral eggs lacked a protective outer-layer or membrane, unlike most animal embryos, could be an evolutionary tactic to ensure reproduction.

"It appears that the lack of protective membrane is no accident," said Negri.

"Almost half of all these naked embryos fragmented in our experiments, suggesting that this has long been part of the corals' repertoire for maximising the impact of their reproductive efforts."

Fellow researcher Andrew Heyward said the coral, under threat from changing ocean temperatures, could benefit simultaneously from the advantages of both sexual and asexual reproduction.

"Much like humans, it is important that the offspring of corals have genetically distinct parents," he said.

"But these embryos also readily clone to form multiple versions of themselves, and it helps to explain how coral maximise their chances of finding a suitable habitat in which to settle and survive.

"In human terms this is the equivalent of giving birth to identical twins, triplets, quadruplets and so on."
Read more on:    marine life

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

linking and moving

2015-04-22 07:36 publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.