The world’s largest coral reef system, the Great Barrier Reef, is certainly going through a difficult time right now. Because of the man-made climate change, as well as with a strong El Niño, it’s currently undergoing a bleaching event.
The barrier is becoming “stressed” and it is losing off its helpful algae, dropping its stunning color consequently. Sadly, there appears within the journal Frontiers in Microbiology has even more negative information. In addition, it appears to be seriously contaminated with a herpes-like virus.
Although, much about their part in these environments remains unknown, viruses have already been found in coral colonies, either benefiting from the animal without adversely influencing it, or parasitically. With the Great Barrier Reef set to experience permanent damage if present heating trends continue, evaluating any damaging effect viruses have on coral reefs is of vital importance.
The researchers analyzed examples of the coral Acropora aspera in both its natural environment as well as in the lab, placing it through numerous stresses including high temperatures, extreme UV light exposure, and simulations of large rainfall – all facets recognized to pressure corals out and lead them to bleach.
Upon bleaching, the corals were discovered to contain loads of virus-like particles (VLPs), non infectious remains of the viral disease. By taking a look at the sizes and the shapes of those nanometer-sized particles, the team figured out that many of them resembled viruses owned by many known families, such as the megavirus groups, the herpesvirus, and the retrovirus.
They seemed to be similar in size and shape towards the herpes virus, however they hardly shared the same genome.
This implies that severe ecological problems create the barrier more susceptible to disease as this episode appeared to happen throughout the bleaching event. In fact, the quantity of VLPs discovered within the coral for actually merely three days after bleaching started was two to four times greater than has actually been documented in corals.
This is bad news. Occurred in an exceedingly short time on the ocean, it might recover, but situations such as this all are now actually occurring more broadly all over the world,” stated Rebecca Vega- Thurber, the author and assistant professor of microbiology at Oregon State University’s College of Science.