Ancient jumping genes may give corals new lease of life

Why is it in news?

Scientists have identified a gene that improves the heat tolerance of the algae that live symbiotically with coral species, and could potentially help the corals adapt to global warming.


  • Symbiodinium is a unicellular algae that provides its coral host with photosynthetic products in return for nutrients and shelter.
  • However, high sea temperatures can cause the breakdown of this symbiotic relationship and lead to widespread expulsion of Symbiodinium from its host tissues, an event known as ‘coral bleaching’. If bleached corals do not recover, they starve to death.
  • Researchers at KAUST Saudi Arabia have identified special genes, called retrotransposons, which could help the algae adapt more rapidly to heat stress.
  • Activation and replication of Symbiodinium’s retrotransposons in response to heat stress could lead to a faster evolutionary response, since producing more mutations increases the chances of generating a beneficial one that allows the symbionts to cope better with this stress.


Corals are an integral part of marine ecosystem. A large number of species depend on them for needs like shelter, nutrition, protection etc. They have come under tremendous stress due to global warming. Using the outcomes from this research can greatly help revive and conserve corals in a more effective way.


Source: The Hindu

Posted by Jawwad Kazi on 2nd Jan 2018