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INVERTEBRATE MEDICINE, Second Edition BLOG

Hot Topic Article: Corals chemically signal mutualistic fishes to remove competing seaweeds.

These Georgia Institute of Technology researchers discovered that the stony coral Acropora nasuta emits chemical cues when being overrun by the toxic seaweed, Chlorodesmis fastigiata. These chemicals attract seaweed eating gobies that rid the coral of the harmful algae and benefit by becoming more toxic to predators.

Abstract:
Corals in the genus Acropora generate much of the structural complexity upon which coral reefs depend, but they are susceptible to damage from toxic seaweeds. Acropora nasuta minimizes this damage by chemically cuing symbiotic goby fishes (Gobiodon histrio or Paragobiodon echinocephalus) to remove the toxic seaweed Chlorodesmis fastigiata. Within minutes of seaweed contact, or contact from only seaweed chemical extract, the coral releases an odor that recruits gobies to trim the seaweed and dramatically reduce coral damage that would otherwise occur. In turn, chemically defended gobies become more toxic after consumption of this noxious alga. Mutualistic gobies and corals appear to represent a marine parallel to terrestrial ant-plants, in that the host provides shelter and food in return for protection from natural enemies.
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