Microscope allows gentle, continuous imaging of light-sensitive corals

Corals are "part animal, part plant, and part rock -- and difficult to figure out, despite being studied for centuries," says Philippe Laissue of University of Essex, a Whitman Scientist at the Marine Biological Laboratory. Many corals are sensitive to bright light, so capturing their dynamics with traditional microscopes is a challenge.


To work around their photosensitivity, Laissue developed a custom light-sheet microscope (the L-SPI) that allows gentle, non-invasive observation of corals and their polyps in detail over eight continuous hours, at high resolution. He and his colleagues, including MBL Associate Scientist and coral biologist Loretta Roberson, published their findings this week in Scientific Reports.

Coral reefs, made up of millions of tiny units called polyps, are extremely important ecosystems, both for marine life and for humans. They harbor thousands of marine species, providing food and economic support for hundreds of millions of people. They also protect coasts from waves and floods, and hold great potential for pharmaceutical and biotechnological discovery.

But more than half of the world s coral reefs are in severe decline. Climate change and other human influences are gravely threatening their survival. As ocean temperatures rise, coral bleaching is afflicting reefs worldwide. In coral bleaching, corals expel their symbiotic algae and become more susceptible to death.

"The L-SPI opens a window on the interactions and relationship between the coral host, the symbiotic algae living in their tissues, and the calcium carbonate skeleton they build in real time," Roberson says. "We can now track the fate of the algae during [coral] bleaching as well as during initiation of the symbiosis."

Roberson is also using Laissue s imaging technology to measure damage to corals from "bioeroders" -- biological agents like algae and sponges that break down a coral s skeleton, a problem exacerbated by ocean acidification and increasing water temperatures.

Materials provided by Marine Biological Laboratory . Original written by Diana Kenney. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Marine Biological Laboratory. "Microscope allows gentle, continuous imaging of light-sensitive corals." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 June 2020. .

Marine Biological Laboratory. "Microscope allows gentle, continuous imaging of light-sensitive corals." ScienceDaily. (accessed June 30, 2020).



Sep. 16, 2019 — The secret of capturing exquisite brain images with a new generation of custom-built microscopes has been revealed. The new microscopes, known as mesoSPIMs, can image the minute detail of brain ...

Jan. 22, 2019 — Corals know how to attract good company. New research finds that corals emit an enticing fluorescent green light that attracts the mobile microalgae, known as Symbiodinium, that are critical to the ...

Nov. 3, 2016 — Scientists have developed the first adaptive light-sheet microscope -- an instrument that continuously analyzes and adapts to dynamic changes in a specimen and thereby improves spatial ...

Dec. 22, 2015 — Corals may survive better in warm oceans where the water is clouded by floating particles, new research finds. The work shows that moderate levels of turbidity -- cloudy water -- could lower stress ...
News Topics :
Researchers at School of Biological Sciences and Swire Institute of Marine Science, The University of Hong Kong have developed a new method for determining what corals eat, and demonstrated that...
Researchers in Australia have found that corals commonly found on the Great Barrier Reef will eat micro plastic pollution. Microplastics are tiny fragments of plastic in the environment and are a...
Top Stories
In a study published Thursday in the journal Science, an international team of researchers looked at decades worth of data from 100 coral reefs that span the globe from the...
A new study by the University of Southampton has revealed why some corals exhibit a dazzling colourful display, instead of turning white, when they suffer coral bleaching...
What factors govern algae s success as tenants of their coral hosts both under optimal conditions and when oceanic temperatures rise A Victoria University of Wellington led team of experts that...