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What happens when coral gets hot? Scientists capture bleaching process for first time

Coral has been observed in the bleaching process.
Coral has been observed in the bleaching process. Copyright Unsplash
Copyright Unsplash
By Emma Beswick
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Mass bleaching events are deadly for coral, but scientists believe they have caught the process on camera for the very first time.


Scientists at the Queensland University of Technology say they’ve captured the coral bleaching process for the very first time.

In the video above, the coral can be seen convulsing, expelling Symbiodinium (tiny algae) and eventually swelling to 340 per cent of its original mass.

To achieve these results the scientists replicated the rising sea surface temperatures that cause coral bleaching.

They increased the heat in a 10-litre aquarium from 26 to 32 degrees Celsius over 12 hours, where the coral remained over eight days.

Of the experiment researcher Brett Lewis said, “If the Symbiodinium is removed from the host and does not recolonise quickly, the corals can die.”

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