New Delhi: For the first time, scientists at the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane have captured the process of coral bleaching - a consequence of rising sea temperatures or pollution – and the results are alarming.
The footage shows the coral species, Heliofungia actiniformis, inflating to more than three times its normal size before suddenly expelling Symbiodinium algae from its body.
"What's really interesting is just how quickly and violently the coral forcefully evicted its resident symbionts," says Brett Lewis from the Queensland University of Technology in Australia.
To capture the coral bleaching in action, scientists used a microscope, digital camera and smart tablet.
The team raised the water temperature from 26 to 32 degrees Celsius (78 to 89 degrees Fahrenheit) over 12 hours, where the coral remained in the heated tank for eight days. And as the water heats up, the H. actiniformis (coral) reacts by expelling the symbiotic algae.
“The H. actiniformis began ejecting the symbionts within the first 2 hours of us raising the water temperature of the system,” says Lewis.
"Our H. actiniformis used a pulsed inflation to expel Symbiodinium over time - inflating their bodies to as much as 340 percent of their normal size before suddenly and violently contracting and ejecting Symbiodinium through their oral openings over the four to eight-day duration of the experiments," adds one of the team, Luke Nothdurft.
Their findings have been published recently in the journal Coral Reefs.