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Coral larvae feed on their baby fat

Symbiotic algae are prime nutrition source for adults only, study finds

By
2:00pm, March 25, 2016
<em>P. damicornis</em>

BABY FAT  Young cauliflower corals may rely on fat reserves, not algae, for food and therefore could be less sensitive to bleaching than adult corals (shown here), researchers propose.

For corals, baby fat is food. Coral mothers send their offspring into the world with a balanced meal of fat and algae, but baby corals mainly chew the fat, new research finds.

Adult corals of the species Pocillopora damicornis get most of their nutrition from symbiotic algae that live inside them, providing metabolic energy by photosynthesis. But coral larvae, researchers report online March 25 in Science Advances, rely instead on their “baby fat.”

The finding sheds light on corals’ metabolism during their most vulnerable developmental stage, says biological geochemist Anders Meibom of École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland. Baby fat “is a good thing,” he says. “It gives the coral some time to find a good home without running out of juice.” Larvae’s dependence on fat may make them less sensitive to bleaching — a

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