Scientists have discovered a new feature in the beautiful corals. They say the young and vibrant corals and fishes in the Pacific Ocean have the ability to smell a bad neighborhood and that is why while looking for a place to settle down they discard reefs littered with seaweed.
Researchers say they use a chemical to discard these reefs and flock to healthy habitats instead.
The population of corals has declined remarkably around the world over the past several decades. Scientists are hoping that the new findings could help them understand why some reefs are not recruiting or recovering new corals despite several conservation efforts.
The study was conducted on the “Coral Coast” of Fiji as scientists considered it an ideal lab to understand the difference between good underwater neighborhoods and bad ones.
Danielle Dixson, lead researcher and biology assistant professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology, said, “Fiji was chosen for the study as the reefs here have a stark differnce between the healthy areas and the degraded areas.”
For the study, the waters of three villages along Fiji’s main island, Viti Levu, were taken as sample by the researchers.
Researchers found that not only the scientists or snorkelers are able to notice the difference but the tiny creatures like corals and fish can sense it too.
They also collected 15 different fish species- 20 specimens of each from healthy and protected areas and degraded and non-protected regions-and then developed an artificial tank having one plume of water from the degraded habitat and another from the healthy one.
The researchers found that the fish preferred to swim in water offering healthy habitats. The results were similar for those fishes which already had got accustomed to stay in a seaweed-choked, degraded habitat.
Same was the case of corals as the coral larvae also overwhelmingly chose to swim in the water offering healthy habitats.
Bob Steneck, a professor at the University of Maine, said, “Seaweed has practically become synonymous with the degradation of coral reefs globally. This is a very elegant experiment suggesting that the larval coral and the fish are choosing not to be in a harmful environment. It makes perfectly good evolutionary sense.”
The findings of study have been published in the journal Science on Wednesday.
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