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Reef corals bleach to survive change


The bleaching of coral reefs, in which symbiotic algae are lost from reef-building invertebrates, is usually considered to be a drastic and damaging response to adverse environmental conditions1,2. Here I report results from transplant experiments involving different combinations of coral host and algal symbiont that support an alternative view, in which bleaching offers a high-risk ecological opportunity for reef corals to rid themselves rapidly of suboptimal algae and to acquire new partners. This strategy could be an advantage to coral reefs that face increasingly frequent and severe episodes of mass bleaching as a result of projected climate change2,3.

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Figure 1: Symbiont diversity and mortality responses to bleaching in transplanted corals.


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Baker, A. Reef corals bleach to survive change. Nature 411, 765–766 (2001).

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