Probiotics could help save overheated coral

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In lab experiments, an infusion of bacteria extracted from coral reefs made the difference between life and death for coral stuck in hot water. At a time when the word “microbiome” has made it into the popular lexicon and people extol the benefits of yogurt, kombucha and other fermented foods, there could be another beneficiary of bacterial infusions: coral. In recent years, scientists have wondered whether microbes in coral reefs might help buffer coral from some of the damage inflicted by rising ocean temperatures. Now comes news that a dose of extra bacteria could make the difference between life and death for corals in warmer conditions. The new research offers a glimmer of hope for an ecosystem imperiled by climate change. Already, the findings have prompted scientists to prepare to test such bacterial treatments in the wild and devise tools to deliver the microbes to reefs. “Someone recently asked me whether I was optimistic or mad, and I think a bit of both,” says Raquel Peixoto , a microbial ecologist at Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah University of Science and Technology who led the new microbial work. “You have to be like a little bit crazy to think that these […]

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