Corals' natural 'sunscreen' may help them weather climate change

Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute scientists are one step closer to understanding why some corals can weather climate change better than others, and the secret could be in a specific protein that produces a natural sunscreen. As their name implies, Hawaiian blue rice corals sport a deep blue pigment, which is created by chromoprotein and filters out harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. Although UV damage may produce long-term impacts to reproduction in many coral species—including brown rice coral—it may not have the same effect on blue rice coral. The findings of this study were published June 9 in the paper “Reproductive plasticity of Hawaiian Montipora corals following thermal stress” in Scientific Reports.

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