Zombie Corals Can Come Back From the Dead

Killed by bleaching, this weird kind of coral can regrow from cryptic tissue

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PHD Comics talks to marine biologist Kate Furby about a strange species of coral, poirites superfusa, that can rise from the dead, growing from cryptic tissues:

Zombie Coral Reefs

The dual attacks of ocean warming and ocean acidification are threatening the world’s corals. Warming is set to push many of the world’s coral reefs into unprecedented territory within just two decades, and acidification attacks the ability of corals to grow their ornate skeletons.

Coral build their homes, the spindly features that fill coral reefs, by precipitating limestone. Coral live atop their shells, where they form a symbiotic relationship with algae. When the coral gets stressed, this symbiotic relationship breaks down and the algae leave, an event known as “bleaching.” The bleaching event itself doesn’t kill the coral. But without the algae supplying them with extra energy, the bleaching can turn deadly.

Understanding how this particular coral recovers from deadly bleaching events could help scientists figure out how to save the corals (other than, you know, mitigating climate change and ocean acidification).

More from Smithsonian.com:

What Does “Unprecedented Climate” Mean?
Saving Coral…Through Sperm Banks?

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