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Anemones rely on epigenetics during symbiosis

Aug 16, 2018

Anemones use epigenetic mechanisms to regulate the expression of genes involved in their symbiosis with photosynthetic algae, according to new research from KAUST. The same mechanisms may help them respond to environmental stress and could be harnessed to improve the resilience of anemones and corals to the challenges posed by climate change.
A team at KAUST have sequenced anemone genomes using a technique that detects DNA methylation, a chemical tag attached to DNA that affects gene expression without altering the genetic sequence. They found that nearly 40 percent of anemone genes were methylated and that the methylation level of a gene correlated with its expression level.

Bacteria that boost plant pumps against drought

Jul 31, 2018

Two types of bacteria known for their growth-promoting properties improved chili plant resistance to drought. They do this partially through their role in over-activating a pump present in the vacuolar membrane of root cells that ultimately facilitates water uptake from soil.
Microbial ecologist, Daniele Daffonchio, and colleagues at KAUST and in Italy investigated whether bacteria that can confer drought resistance in plants have an effect on a cellular vacuolar proton pump that helps roots take up more water from the soil.

Red Sea flushes faster from far flung volcanoes

Jul 29, 2018

Deep water in the Red Sea gets replenished much faster than previously thought and its circulation is directly affected by major climatic events, including volcanic eruptions, KAUST researchers have found.
Waters occupying depths from 300 to 2000 meters in the Red Sea are recognized as the warmest and saltiest deep water in the world, with near-homogenous temperatures above 20 degrees Celsius and salinities higher than 40.5 practical salinity units (psu). The world average for similar depths is 2.5 degrees Celsius and 35 psu.

Keeping up with sea-level rise

Jul 15, 2018

Soil accumulation in coastal ecosystems could mitigate rising sea levels around the Arabian Peninsula, according to new research from KAUST. However, this mitigation will require efforts to preserve and restore these ecosystems.
Human-driven climate change is raising sea levels around the world at increasing rates, threatening hundreds of millions of people living in coastal areas. Researchers at KAUST’s Red Sea Research Center worked with colleagues at the King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals to determine whether this increase could be mitigated by soil accretion in coastal ecosystems.

Mysterious gentle giants gather off Saudi coast

Jul 08, 2018

The availability of tiny prey near a coral reef in the eastern Red Sea seems not to be the reason that whale sharks aggregate there every spring.
In recent years, juvenile whale sharks have been discovered gathering at a coral reef, 4 kilometers off the coast of Saudi Arabia between February and May. This provides the opportunity for scientists at KAUST’s Red Sea Research Center to study their behaviors.
“Whale sharks are under threat from targeted fisheries and as bycatch and are listed as endangered by the IUCN Red List,” says Ph.D. student Aya Hozumi. “However, we have limited understanding of their ecology and life history, which poses a challenge to conservation efforts.”

Roberto Arrigoni has been awarded with the international prize “Benazzi Lentati”

Jul 05, 2018

On June 22th Roberto Arrigoni, a research scientist in the Red Sea Research Center (RSRC) has been awarded with the international prize “Benazzi Lentati” in Zoology by the Lincean Academy.
The Lincean Academy is the oldest scientific academy in the World, being founded in 1603. The international prize was dedicated to international young researchers (below 35 years old) in the field of organismic evolutionary zoology.The scientific committee of Lincean Academy evaluated the candidates on the base of their CVs and selected me as unique winner. The amount of money of this prize is 10000 euro.

Remote corals pay the price of climate change

Jul 01, 2018

The coral reefs of a Samoan island in the remote southwest Pacific are in a surprisingly poor condition, highlighting the far-reaching impacts of climate change.

KAUST marine scientists joined colleagues on the research schooner Tara to examine the impacts of climate change on coral reefs surrounding Upolu, an island just 74 kilometers long and 24 kilometers wide, home to about 135,000 Samoans.

Anemones take the heat with a little help from their friends

Jun 17, 2018

A core set of heat-stress-response genes has been identified in anemones in a study that also highlights the role of symbiotic algae in coping with temperature, an important revelation for planning conservation efforts.
Researchers from KAUST’s Red Sea Research Center profiled gene transcripts and proteins expressed by sea anemones—three strains of the model organism Aiptasia pallida—from locations that experience different temperatures throughout the year: North Carolina, Hawaii and the Red Sea.

Coral tricks for adapting to ocean acidification

Jun 10, 2018

A process that changes the regulation of genes could help corals acclimatize to the impacts of global warming.

Cells commonly control gene expression by adding a methyl group to part of the DNA, changing how the information on the DNA is read without changing its genetic code. Researchers at KAUST wanted to investigate whether DNA methylation could play a role in helping corals adapt to climate change.

Synchronized swimming for seal migrations

Jun 03, 2018

Combining music and movement is not unusual—but translating the movements of migrating marine animals into musical notes certainly is. An international research team including KAUST scientists have created a sound symphony using data charting the movements of northern elephant seals in the Pacific Ocean. This sonification technique provides surprising insights into group dynamics and synchronicity.
“Many studies have analyzed single-animal tracks, but collective movement is rarely addressed,” says Carlos Duarte from KAUST, who led the project in collaboration with colleagues including Madhu Srinivasan from KAUST’s Visualization Core Lab, and scientists in the United States.

Italian Red Sea research event in Jeddah

May 27, 2018

On 14 May Professor Daniele Daffonchio of KAUST Biological and Environmental Science and Engineering Division and the Red Sea Research Center presented his research alongside Professors from two Italian Universities at the Italian Cultural Centre in Jeddah to a diverse local and international audience.

Mapping movements of ocean creatures great and small

May 06, 2018

A whale and a turtle differ in size, shape and lifestyle but their patterns of movement are surprisingly similar, reveals the largest collection of movement data for a diverse group of large marine vertebrates.
A team of 58 researchers from nine countries and 45 research institutions has collated a satellite telemetry dataset for a diverse set of large marine megafauna: it includes more than 2.8 million locations from more than 2,600 tracked individual animals. And for some species it includes data from as long ago as 1985.

Smart skin for flexible monitoring

May 03, 2018

A thin smart patch called Marine Skin could make studying the behavior of marine animals easier and more informative. This system for electronic tagging of animals is based on stretchable silicone elastomers that can withstand twisting, shearing and stretching, even when exposed to high pressures in deep waters.
“The integrated flexible electronics can track an animal’s movement and diving behavior and the health of the surrounding marine environment in real time,” says Joanna Nassar. Now at California Institute of Technology, Nassar was a Ph.D. student in the KAUST team that developed the patch.

Microbial communities have a seasonal shake-up

Apr 22, 2018

Seasonal changes in turbulence and nutrient availability are shown to shape microbial communities in the Red Sea. “A lot of the marine ecosystem is ultimately based on how microbes live and what they’re doing,” explains research scientist John Pearman, who undertook the study. “Knowing how microbes respond is important to understand how the ecosystem is going to function.”

Prof. Michael Berumen has been appointed as Acting Director of the RSRC

Apr 01, 2018

​ Professor Michael Berumen has been appointed as Acting Director of the KAUST Red Sea Research Center effective April 1, 2018.
Dr. Berumen joined KAUST in 2009 and leads the Reef Ecology Lab in the Red Sea Research Center. He has authored more than 180 journal articles on research focusing on a range of coral reef taxa, and he has extensive field experience on coral reefs around the world. In addition to work throughout Saudi Arabia and other parts of the Red Sea, he is also a participant in active projects the Indian and Pacific Oceans, including Papua New Guinea, French Polynesia, Australia, New Caledonia and others.