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Fluorescence could help diagnose sick corals

Imaging technique offers a new way to monitor reef health

By
7:00am, November 17, 2017
Montipora capitata

GET YOUR GLOW ON  The reef coral Montipora capitata naturally fluoresces in red and cyan, as seen in this confocal microscopy image.

Sickness makes some corals lose their glow.

Disease reduces a coral’s overall fluorescence even before any sign of the infection is visible to the naked eye, a new study finds. An imaging technique that illuminates the change could help with efforts to better monitor coral health, researchers report November 6 in Scientific Reports.

Many corals naturally produce fluorescent proteins that glow in a wavelength of light that human eyes can’t see in natural light. Previous studies have shown that heat stress and wounding, among others stressors, can affect coral fluorescence, but the new study is the first to look at the relationship between fluorescence and infectious disease.

Jamie Caldwell, a disease ecologist now at Stanford University, and colleagues used a technique called live-imaging laser scanning confocal microscopy to compare fluorescence in

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