Do corals form clouds? University of Tokyo and OIST researchers decode Acropora genome, hope to elucidate environmental adaptability

October 20, 2020 Ryukyu Shimpo

Recently, University of Tokyo Atmosphere and Ocean Research Institute associate professor Chuya Shinzato, Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) professor Noriyuki Sato, and others decoded the genome of 18 species of coral in the Acroporidae family, including 15 species of coral in the Acropora genus living in the sea around Ishigaki Island and Okinawa Island. As a result, they learned that species of coral in the Acropora genus may have survived a warmer marine environment by forming clouds to block out sunlight. The research team expects the genome information obtained through their research to serve as an important tool for understanding whether the corals will be able to adapt to climate change going forward.

A paper compiling the research results was published in the English language science journal Molecular Biology and Evolution put out on October 15.

The research team analyzed the genome information of the 18 Acropora corals together with fossil records. They also revealed that the ancestors of Acropora emerged in the Cretaceous period, when there was no ice in the North and South Poles and dinosaurs lived in a climate warmer than our climate today.

Corals have DMSP lyases, enzymes that break down DMSP molecules to generate a compound called dimethyl sulfide (DMS). When DMS is released from the ocean into the atmosphere it collects water vapor and turns to water droplets and ice, and is thought to assist the generation of clouds.

This research revealed that Acropora coral has at most around 20 genes for producing DMSP lyases, which is more than other types of coral. The research team believes, based on this result, that Acropora ancestors may have survived warm environments in the past by the formation of clouds.

Associate Professor Shinzato, who is from Okinawa, said, “It is presumed that there is some mechanism for forming clouds from DMS, but there is no evidence yet. I hope to continue this research with the team going forward.”

(English translation by T&CT and Sandi Aritza)

Go to Japanese


Previous Article:
Next Article:

[Similar Articles]