Today’s Solutions: February 06, 2023

Have you ever thought about what corals smell like? Caitlin Lawson, Marine biologist at the University of Technology Sydney in Australia, has made it her mission to collect the gaseous, smelly chemicals that corals release under different conditions with the hope that a deeper understanding of these compounds will provide a strategy to better assess the coral’s health.

Lawson was at the Great Barrier Reef last December and witnessed the mature corals spewing eggs and sperm in unison to create larvae. According to Lawson, the spectacle looks “like an underwater snowstorm.” She wasn’t there for the view, but rather to identify the volatile chemicals the corals produce during their procreative display.

Scientists have already been studying the volatile chemicals released by terrestrial organisms. They know, for instance, that a plant’s volatile emission might communicate the presence of an insect predator to nearby vegetation, and that dogs can detect the chemical smells of cancer and other diseases.

However, there’s a lot of catching up to do when it comes to the volatile chemicals released by underwater organisms. According to Debashish Bhattacharya, a coral genomics researcher at Rutgers University, the work that Lawson’s team is doing is “the first really high-quality documentation of the volatiles that are produced by corals.”

Lawson stresses that their work can potentially reveal the relationship between the different chemicals being released and various aspects of climate change. Detection of key volatile chemicals can also indicate signs of disease in other creatures, which could lead to researchers one day identify a specific volatile cocktail that signifies coral stress. This could be revolutionary for marine conservationists because currently, stress can only be monitored through visual markers like lesions, which means that can only act reactively to damage that’s already been done, rather than preventatively.

There’s also a lot to be learned about how corals and other underwater creatures might use volatiles to communicate. Lawson and her team are excited to be pioneering this area of study and hope to uncover a vast source of knowledge that we can utilize to more effectively protect our environment.

Solutions News Source Print this article
More of Today's Solutions

What is NEAT and why is it more effective for weight loss than exercise?

"Non-exercise activity thermogenesis," also known as NEAT, is a fancy term for the energy you expend during the day whenever you’re not sleeping, eating, or ...

Read More

These are the 20 best cities world-wide for mental wellbeing

Thanks to modern technology, the world, though still so vast, has for many become smaller. Thanks to these advances, you can wake up in ...

Read More

This gigantic vertical greenhouse uses 100% natural light

Vertical farming is an amazing solution that allows us to grow fresh produce using a fraction of the water and land that traditional agriculture ...

Read More

The many benefits of cultivating intergenerational friendships

Humans tend to gravitate towards or become friends with people our age due to our experiences in school and work. As we age together ...

Read More