Coral mucus functions as an energy carrier and particle trap in the reef ecosystem View Full Text


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Article Info

DATE

2004-03

AUTHORS

Christian Wild, Markus Huettel, Anke Klueter, Stephan G. Kremb, Mohammed Y. M. Rasheed, Bo B. Jørgensen

ABSTRACT

Zooxanthellae, endosymbiotic algae of reef-building corals, substantially contribute to the high gross primary production of coral reefs1, but corals exude up to half of the carbon assimilated by their zooxanthellae as mucus2,3. Here we show that released coral mucus efficiently traps organic matter from the water column and rapidly carries energy and nutrients to the reef lagoon sediment, which acts as a biocatalytic mineralizing filter. In the Great Barrier Reef, the dominant genus of hard corals, Acropora, exudes up to 4.8 litres of mucus per square metre of reef area per day. Between 56% and 80% of this mucus dissolves in the reef water, which is filtered through the lagoon sands. Here, coral mucus is degraded at a turnover rate of at least 7% per hour. Detached undissolved mucus traps suspended particles, increasing its initial organic carbon and nitrogen content by three orders of magnitude within 2 h. Tidal currents concentrate these mucus aggregates into the lagoon, where they rapidly settle. Coral mucus provides light energy harvested by the zooxanthellae and trapped particles to the heterotrophic reef community, thereby establishing a recycling loop that supports benthic life, while reducing loss of energy and nutrients from the reef ecosystem. More... »

PAGES

66-70

References to SciGraph publications

  • 1986-02. Microheterotrophic utilization of mucus released by the Mediterranean coral Cladocora cespitosa in MARINE BIOLOGY
  • 1991-03. Microbial utilization of coral mucus in long term in situ incubation over a coral reef in HYDROBIOLOGIA
  • 1972-04. The subtidal pump: a mechanism of interstitial water exchange by wave action in MARINE BIOLOGY
  • 1968-10. Observations on organic aggregates in the vicinity of coral reefs in MARINE BIOLOGY
  • 1984-04. The role of zooxanthellae in the nutritional energy requirements of Pocillopora eydouxi in CORAL REEFS
  • 1985-03. Temporal and spatial variation in bacterial production in the water column over a coral reef in MARINE BIOLOGY
  • 1989-12. Laboratory-made artificial marine snow: a biological model of the real thing in MARINE BIOLOGY
  • 1988-09. Structural investigations on the mucus from six species of coral in MARINE BIOLOGY
  • 2001-10. Endoscopic exploration of Red Sea coral reefs reveals dense populations of cavity-dwelling sponges in NATURE
  • 1980-12. Diurnal lipid and mucus production in the staghorn coral Acropora acuminata in MARINE BIOLOGY
  • 1979-08. Corals and Coral Reefs in SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN
  • 1986-08. Water movement within a fringing reef flat, Orpheus Island, North Queensland, Australia in CORAL REEFS
  • 1986-08. Coral-reef hydrology: field studies of water movement within a barrier reef in CORAL REEFS
  • 1997-07. Photosynthesis, respiration and calcification of a zooxanthellate scleractinian coral under submerged and exposed conditions in MARINE BIOLOGY
  • Identifiers

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    http://scigraph.springernature.com/pub.10.1038/nature02344

    DOI

    http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature02344

    DIMENSIONS

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    PUBMED

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14999280


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    42 schema:description Zooxanthellae, endosymbiotic algae of reef-building corals, substantially contribute to the high gross primary production of coral reefs1, but corals exude up to half of the carbon assimilated by their zooxanthellae as mucus2,3. Here we show that released coral mucus efficiently traps organic matter from the water column and rapidly carries energy and nutrients to the reef lagoon sediment, which acts as a biocatalytic mineralizing filter. In the Great Barrier Reef, the dominant genus of hard corals, Acropora, exudes up to 4.8 litres of mucus per square metre of reef area per day. Between 56% and 80% of this mucus dissolves in the reef water, which is filtered through the lagoon sands. Here, coral mucus is degraded at a turnover rate of at least 7% per hour. Detached undissolved mucus traps suspended particles, increasing its initial organic carbon and nitrogen content by three orders of magnitude within 2 h. Tidal currents concentrate these mucus aggregates into the lagoon, where they rapidly settle. Coral mucus provides light energy harvested by the zooxanthellae and trapped particles to the heterotrophic reef community, thereby establishing a recycling loop that supports benthic life, while reducing loss of energy and nutrients from the reef ecosystem.
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