facebook
twitter
rss
account
search
search
 

Scientists use computers to model ocean-spanning trek of coral larvae

Aug. 21, 2013 at 6:53 PM   |   Comments

MIAMI, Aug. 21 (UPI) -- Epic, ocean-spanning journeys by coral larvae may predict how coral reef distributions will shift with climate change, U.S. and British researchers say.

The researchers say their study, published in the journal Global Ecology and Biogeography, is the first to identify the oceanic paths along which corals disperse globally.

Coral reefs, under increasing threat from human activity, natural disturbances and climate change, may respond to changing conditions by shifting to more favorable refuges, but their ability to do so will depend on the ocean currents, the researchers reported.

"Dispersal is an extremely important process for corals," Sally Wood at Britain's University of Bristol said. "As they are attached to the seafloor as adults, the only way they can escape harmful conditions or replenish damaged reefs is by releasing their young to the mercy of the ocean currents."

Tracking the movement of such tiny coral larvae in the vast oceans has been an impossible task.

"This is where computer simulation comes in," Wood said.

Wood used a computer model developed at the University of Miami to identify the billions of paths taken.

This larval migration model found that while the majority of simulated larvae settled close to home, others traveled as far as 5,600 miles, almost the entire width of the Pacific Ocean.

When considered over multiple generations, Wood said, this suggests corals are able to cross entire ocean basins, using islands and coastlines as "stepping stones" to shift their locations in response to climate change.

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
Most Popular
1
Harvard scientist startled by giant bird-eating spider on rainforest walk Harvard scientist startled by giant bird-eating spider on rainforest walk
2
Wisconsin shuts down three wolf hunting zones, two remain open Wisconsin shuts down three wolf hunting zones, two remain open
3
Soda drinkers may be slowly killing themselves Soda drinkers may be slowly killing themselves
4
Peaking Orionid meteor shower to be obscured by nor'easter Peaking Orionid meteor shower to be obscured by nor'easter
5
Earth's magnetic field may soon flip, according to new data Earth's magnetic field may soon flip, according to new data
Trending News
Around the Web
x
Feedback