Glowing corals’ survival secrets unravelled

Corals in sunlit shallow waters usually glow because of specific proteins that block the sun’s harmful rays. But in dark, deep-water environments, instead of blocking sunlight altogether, those proteins help the corals absorb some light to make food with the help of an algae called zooxanthellae.

This adaptation is how corals thrive at great depths, according to a new study by a team of international scientists including a first author from New York University Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

The scientists explain how the function of the glowing proteins changes in corals, depending on where they live. The corals in poorly lit environments use a special type of red fluorescent protein that captures blue light and re-emits it as orange-red1. This orange-red light penetrates deeper into the coral’s tissue, helping the algae photosynthesize. read more

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