Corals Actively Alter their Environment in Unexpected Ways
Contrary to the traditional view that corals passively depend on ocean currents to deliver sustenance, Professor Roman Stocker and colleagues discovered that the organisms actually engineer their environment to sweep water into turbulent patterns and greatly enhance their ability to exchange nutrients and dissolved gases. In a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers report that cilia, the threadlike hairs that push water along the coral surface, produce strong swirls of water that draw nutrients toward the coral while driving away potentially toxic waste products. Knowing that the boundary between coral and water is a dynamic environment will be important for studying the interactions of marine microorganisms with coral colonies, an important subject due to a global increase in coral disease and reef degradation. Besides illuminating how coral reefs function, Stocker suggests that this research could be of interest in studying other organisms with cilia, including inside human airways where cilia help to sweep away contaminants.
Read the MIT news story: https://newsoffice.mit.edu/2014/corals-engineers-0901