DNA analysis reveals cryptic underwater ecosystem engineers

ScienceDaily | 7/11/2019 | Staff
Tanya9 (Posted by) Level 3
But a new DNA analysis of coralline algae led by UBC and Hakai Institute researchers has revealed a wealth of different species -- a diversity that could hold the key to protecting critical underwater habitats like kelp forests.

"Corallines play really important roles in their ecosystem, from cementing coral reefs together to giving off scents that attract other species like sea urchins, abalone, corals, and kelps to the area," said Patrick T. Martone, a professor of botany at UBC who supervised the research. "Some coralline species are better at attracting organisms than others and respond to climate stressors like rising ocean temperatures in different ways. But they all look the same so it's hard to tell how changes to their environment are really impacting them."

Coralline - Algae - Species - Loss - Sea

Coralline algae appear to be among the only species to benefit from the loss of sea otters, an endangered species native to the North Pacific Ocean. When sea otters are lost, sea urchins bloom and mow down kelp forests, which provide important habitat for many marine organisms. The resulting "sea urchin barrens" are largely devoid of life, except for coralline algae which appear to thrive in the landscape.

"The fact that corallines do better in this environment would be an exception to our understanding of the impacts of losing 'keystone' species like sea otters, which typically result in an overall loss of biodiversity," said Martone.

Order - Corallines - Absence - Furry - Creatures

In order to find out if corallines are really doing better in the absence of the furry creatures, the researchers surveyed the diversity of corallines in both sea urchin barrens...
(Excerpt) Read more at: ScienceDaily
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