"Mother Reefs" that Spread Life Through Ocean Currents: A Chance to Conservation?

Khryss | Published 2017-09-05 12:41

The mother of all life in the coral world!

Turns out ocean has its own way of thriving that we didn't know about. Meet the different "mother" reefs! They propagate marine life and spreads this to their neighbours through ocean's ebb and flow.

This was first spotted by Dionysios Raitsos and colleagues at Plymouth Marine Laboratory in the UK when they studied satellite images of Red Sea's ocean currents (dated 1992 to 2012) from space.

 “We could see how currents were dragging huge water masses carrying fish eggs, larvae and coral larvae from one area to another,” says Raitsos. “We used satellite data to identify the most important ‘mother’ reefs, which we found were population donors.”

Some strong and fast currents were even able to sweep larvae between the flanks of such seawater inlet in just 14 days! That's about 280 kilometres long! A good way to spread life, don't you think?

Researchers tried to find any particular paths for eggs and larvae. So, they've created a computer model of the Red Sea. They tracked how far particles would travel with the model's 19 reef locations along the 1500 kilometre coastline. Different particles from the reefs halfway down Red Sea's coast actually showed to travel for a surprising distance of 700 kilometres both north and south.  

To even confirm this tally to the real biological life, researchers analyzed clownfish genealogy along the eastern coastline. Results showed that the general flow of those particles from the mother reefs had a similar pattern with the flow of clownfish's gene. “They overlapped nearly perfectly,” says Raitsos.

“Using satellite data, these researchers successfully predicted the genetics of clownfish in the Red Sea, and identified conservation hotspots that are key sources of larvae in the region,” says Steve Simpson at the University of Exeter, UK. Finding and protecting central reefs like this could be the most effective way of conserving coral life as these reefs seeded the others. Let's help the mother coral reefs.


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