Researchers from The University of Technology Sydney, studying the impact of light stress on the symbiotic partnership between reef building organisms and associated microalgae, have revealed a previously unrecognised mechanism by which the partners reorganise symbiont location to maintain the health of the relationship. The important insights gained may help bridge existing knowledge gaps about other important symbiotic partnerships, such as in corals, where the breakdown of this partnership, results in coral bleaching, the scientists say.
Light is the principle driver of productivity in coral reef ecosystems, due to the many symbiotic partnerships formed with photosynthetic algae. To maintain the health of these partnerships, the amount of light received by the algae must be tightly regulated, and it is generally assumed this regulation comes under the role of the algal partner. However the research team demonstrated that it was the host, in this case the foraminifera Marginopora vertebralis, that instigated the process to protect stressed algae and, ultimately, the symbiotic relationship.
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