The lead researchers on the study. (From left to right) Catherine McFadden, a biologist at Harvey Mudd College, Estefanía Rodríguez, a curator at the American Museum of Natural History, and Andrea Quattrini, research zoologist and curator of corals at the National Museum of Natural History.
(Photo courtesy Andrea Quattrini)
A new study, published Aug. 31 in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, finds that reef-building corals emerged only when ocean conditions supported the construction of these creatures’ stony skeletons, whereas diverse softer corals and sea anemones flourished at other times. Without a significant change to anthropogenic carbon emissions, the new findings present stark implications for the present and future of hard-bodied corals while suggesting a silver lining for the diversity of some of their softer-bodied relatives.