Coral skeletons defend against ultraviolet radiation

Reef, Ruth, Kaniewska, Paulina and Hoegh-Guldberg, Ove (2009) Coral skeletons defend against ultraviolet radiation. PLoS One, 4 11: Article No. e7995. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0007995

Author Reef, Ruth
Kaniewska, Paulina
Hoegh-Guldberg, Ove
Title Coral skeletons defend against ultraviolet radiation
Journal name PLoS One   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1932-6203
Publication date 2009-11
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0007995
Open Access Status DOI
Volume 4
Issue 11
Start page Article No. e7995
Total pages 6
Editor Christopher Surridge
Place of publication San Francisco, CA, United States
Publisher Public Library of Science
Collection year 2010
Language eng
Subject 060203 Ecological Physiology
960899 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity of Environments not elsewhere classified
Formatted abstract
Many coral reef organisms are photosynthetic or have evolved in tight symbiosis with photosynthetic symbionts. As such, the tissues of reef organisms are often exposed to intense solar radiation in clear tropical waters and have adapted to trap and harness photosynthetically active radiation (PAR). High levels of ultraviolet radiation (UVR) associated with sunlight, however, represent a potential problem in terms of tissue damage.

Methodology/Principal Findings

By measuring UVR and PAR reflectance from intact and ground bare coral skeletons we show that the property of calcium carbonate skeletons to absorb downwelling UVR to a significant extent, while reflecting PAR back to the overlying tissue, has biological advantages. We placed cnidarians on top of bare skeletons and a UVR reflective substrate and showed that under ambient UVR levels, UVR transmitted through the tissues of cnidarians placed on top of bare skeletons were four times lower compared to their counterparts placed on a UVR reflective white substrate. In accordance with the lower levels of UVR measured in cnidarians on top of coral skeletons, a similar drop in UVR damage to their DNA was detected. The skeletons emitted absorbed UVR as yellow fluorescence, which allows for safe dissipation of the otherwise harmful radiation.


Our study presents a novel defensive role for coral skeletons and reveals that the strong UVR absorbance by the skeleton can contribute to the ability of corals, and potentially other calcifiers, to thrive under UVR levels that are detrimental to most marine life.
Keyword Great-Barrier-Reef
Induced Dna-damage
Humic-acid bands
Trace materials
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: 2010 Higher Education Research Data Collection
Centre for Marine Studies Publications
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Citation counts: TR Web of Science Citation Count  Cited 17 times in Thomson Reuters Web of Science Article | Citations
Scopus Citation Count Cited 18 times in Scopus Article | Citations
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Created: Sun, 03 Jan 2010, 00:00:40 EST