Stressed-Out Coral Reefs Releasing Chemicals to Cool Their Ocean Crib

Via Smithsonian Mag:

New research, led by Jean-Baptiste Raina, has found that coral are fighting back: coral can release a chemical, dimethylsulphoniopropionate (DMSP), that helps them engineer their environment and stave off global warming. When DMSP is released to the environment, bacteria living in the water convert it into a different related gas, dimethylsulphide (DMS). DMS, the scientists say, can control the local climate by spurring clouds to form. More DMS means more clouds, and more clouds means cooler ocean waters for the coral to live in.

The discovery marks the first time that an animal has been found to produce DMSP. Previously, scientists thought it was the algae living in the coral that made the gas, but the new research found that the coral itself can churn it out. And, perhaps more importantly, corals’ DMSP production goes up when the coral gets stressed.

But, although this seems super cool to me, a person who knows nearly nothing about ecological science, the researchers behind this study say that the worldwide declining coral cover represents a “double jeopardy… as the potential to alleviate thermal stress through coral-produced DMSP declines correspondingly.”

Photo via clio1789/flickr

[Smithsonian, Nature]