Corals May Have Defense Against Global Warming

Ancient corals may have been more adaptable to changing ocean chemistry than previously thought, a new study shows.

The findings may offer hope that modern corals can adapt as global warming causes seas to become more acidic.

These fossil corals in diverse reef communities adjusted to an acidic environment by altering the way they built their chalky skeletons.

Modern hard corals—known as scleractinians—form reefs of thousands of tiny skeletons made from a calcium carbonate called aragonite.

Aragonite is susceptible to the corrosive effects of acidic oceans, which today has become a byproduct of a build-up of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

“We now have many different arguments to prove that these corals were actually made originally out of calcite—and not just aragonite that was transformed after the coral died and become fossilized,” said study co-author Jaroslaw Stolarski, a paleontologist from the Institute of Paleobiology at the Polish Academy of Sciences.

Helen Scales, National Geographic News, 4 October 2007. Article.

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