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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.

#Discovery

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.

#Discovery

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.

#Discovery

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.

#Discovery

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.

#Discovery

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.”

#Discovery

Coral lifestyles reflected in their genes

Feb 01, 2018

The first comparative genome study between two corals reveals significant evolutionary differences. These findings could help scientists understand the resilience of corals and how they might respond to climate change.
Reef-building corals diverged into two genetically distinct groups, called the robust clade and the complex clade, at least 240 million years ago. Until now, the only complex coral genome available has been for the complex coral Acropora digitifera. An international team, led by Christian Voolstra and Manuel Aranda from KAUST, sequenced the genome of the robust coral Stylophora pistillata and then compared it with the existing Acropora genome.

#Discovery

Trawl of Red Sea surface waters finds little plastic

Jan 07, 2018

KAUST Professor/Director of the Red Sea Research Center, Carlos Duarte, and his student Cecilia Martin were part of a team that measured the amount of plastic debris in the Red Sea during sea voyages in 2016-2017.
They found that the quantity of plastic in the Red Sea was quite low, which they attribute to there being no consistent inflow from a river and to plastics collecting in corals and mangroves.

#Discovery

Ancient viral genes may give corals a new lease on life

Dec 24, 2017

KAUST Assistant Professor of marine science Manuel Aranda, his postdoc Jit Ern Chen and Phd student Guoxin Cui conducted analyses to find out which genes turn on or off when Symbiodinium is exposed to heat stress. Symbiodinium is the unicellular alga that provides its coral host with the photosynthetic products it needs to survive, while the coral host provides nutrients for the alga.

#Discovery