Many new underwater fungi species discovered in coral reef


This video is about a mushroom coral moving. It is not a fungus; it is coral.

This video from the USA says about itself:

This short film introduces one of the coral fungi (Family Clavariaceae, genus Ramaria) which is found in mixed hardwood and coniferous forests in autumn. Filmed at the Rydell NWR, Erskine, Minnesota (10 September 2016).

Coral fungi are fungi that look like coral, but are not coral.

Now, to organisms that are neither marine mushroom coral nor land-living coral fungi: to marine fungi.

This 27 September 2016 video is called ASPERGILLUS & COMMENTS ON MARINE FUNGI.

From the University of Hawaii at Manoa:

Botanists discover hundreds of species of fungi in deep coral ecosystems

July 12, 2017

Summary: Hundreds of potentially new species of fungi have been discovered in the deep coral ecosystem in the ‘Au’au channel off Maui, Hawai’i. These mesophotic coral ecosystems are generally found at depths between 130 – 500 feet and possess abundant plant (algal) life as well as new fish species.

Researchers from the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa (UHM) Department of Botany have discovered hundreds of potentially new species of fungi in the deep coral ecosystem in the ‘Au’au channel off Maui, Hawai’i. Mesophotic coral ecosystems (MCE) are generally found at depths between 130 — 500 feet and possess abundant plant (algal) life as well as new fish species. The mysteries of these reefs are only recently being revealed through technological advances in closed circuit rebreather diving. Previously overlooked — being too precarious for conventional SCUBA and too shallow to justify the cost of frequent submersible dives — mesophotic reefs continuously disclose breathtaking levels of biodiversity with each dive, yielding species and behavioral interactions new to science.

The UHM Hawai’i Undersea Research Laboratory (HURL) used the Pisces V submersible to collect native algae from the mesophotic reefs in the ‘Au’au channel. Using the DNA sequencing facility at the UHM Hawai’i Institute of Marine Biology, Benjamin Wainwright, lead author of the study and UHM Botany postdoctoral researcher, and colleagues determined which species of fungus were associated with the native algae.

Fungi have been documented in almost all habitats on Earth, although marine fungi are less studied in comparison to their terrestrial counterparts. Scientists have found fungi in deep and shallow water corals, marine sponges and other invertebrates. The recently discovered fungi, however, were found living in association with algae.

“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first documented evidence confirming fungi in MCEs,” said Wainwright.

Additionally, the research team discovered that 27% of the species detected in these deep dark environments are also found on terrestrial rainforest plants in Hawai’i.

“Finding such high overlap of fungal diversity on terrestrial plants was surprising. Mesophotic reefs are as dark as it gets where photosynthesis is still possible, so to find the same species of fungi on forest plants illustrates the remarkable ability of some fungi to tolerate, and thrive, in extremely different habitats,” said Anthony Amend, senior author of the study and UHM associate professor of botany. “This ecological breadth is something that seemingly sets fungi apart from other organisms.”

Plant-associated fungi provide many benefits to society. For example, Taxol, a chemotherapy medication used to treat cancers, is produced by a fungus found inside tree bark and leaves. Additionally, research has shown that fungi are useful in bioremediation efforts (for example, oil spill and industrial waste treatment) and capable of breaking down plastic waste.

It is currently not known whether the newly discovered fungal species are pathogens, helpful symbionts or unimportant to their algae hosts.

“Further, we don’t currently know what metabolic capabilities they have that may prove to have medical or environmental applications,” said Wainwright. “We know other undiscovered species are present in these ecosystems. Unfortunately, if we do not look now we may miss our opportunity to benefit from them and conserve them.”

Deep reefs, like those in the ‘Au’au channel, may act as a refuge as Earth’s climate changes, providing habitat for any marine creatures that can take advantage of this deeper habitat. If this is indeed the case, understanding how this habitat functions and how the corals, algae and fungi interact with one another will be vital to preserving the refuge in the deep.

The results of this research are published here.

How fish eat coral


This video says about itself:

Slimy ‘Kiss’ Lets Reef Fish Feed on Stinging Corals

5 June 2017

(Inside Science) — With their sharp, stony skeletons and stinger-laden flesh, corals are well protected against most potential predators. Tubelip wrasses are one of the few fish to overcome these defenses, and now, scientists have discovered how they do it. The secret is in the lips.

Unlike their thin-lipped relatives, tubelip wrasses have big, fleshy lips that protrude in front of their teeth. These lips appear smooth to the naked eye. But in a study published today in Current Biology, scientists examined them for the first time under an electron microscope, and saw they are actually covered in parallel flaps like the gills of a mushroom. The lips produce huge amounts of mucus, and can close to form a sort of straw.

High-speed videos revealed what the strange lips are for.

“[T]ubelip wrasses feed using short sharp ‘kisses’ to suck mucus and occasionally tissue off the coral surface,” the authors write. The kisses make a smacking sound the researchers describe as “tuk.”

According to the researchers, the lip mucus probably serves a double purpose, forming a seal on the coral’s surface while shielding the fish from stinging barbs known as nematocysts. Thus protected, the fish are free to suck out coral’s nutritious goo.

From ScienceDaily:

With specialized lips, these fish dine on razor-sharp, stinging corals

June 5, 2017

Summary: More than 6,000 fish species that live on coral reefs, but only 128 are known to feed on corals. Now, researchers have discovered how at least one species of coral-feeding fish does it. They ‘kiss’ the flesh and mucus off the coral skeleton using protective, self-lubricating lips.

Of all the things an animal could eat, corals are arguably one of the toughest, thanks to their thin, mucus-covered flesh packed with venomous stinging cells spread over a razor-sharp skeleton. Perhaps that explains why of the more than 6,000 fish species that live on the reef, only 128 are known to feed on corals. Now, researchers reporting in Current Biology on June 5 have discovered how at least one species of coral-feeding fish does it. They “kiss” the flesh and mucus off the coral skeleton using protective, self-lubricating lips.

“The lips are like the gills of a mushroom but covered in slime,” says David Bellwood of James Cook University in Australia. “It is like having a running nose but having running lips instead.”

The researchers suggest that the mucus may facilitate suction while offering protection from corals’ stinging nematocysts.

Bellwood and the study’s first author, Víctor Huertas, recognized that the problem when eating corals would come as lips touched the surface. They wanted to find out exactly what was happening in that process. They used a scanning electron microscope to get extremely high-quality images that could capture the specialized lips of tubelip wrasses (Labropsis australis) in unprecedented detail.

Those images revealed remarkable differences between the lips of the tubelip wrasse and another wrasse species that doesn’t feed on corals. Wrasses that don’t eat corals have lips that are thin and smooth, with teeth that protrude slightly. By comparison, tubelip wrasses have lips that are fleshy and stick out, forming a tube when the mouth is closed that covers all the teeth.

The most prominent characteristic of the tubelip wrasse’s lips, they found, are numerous thin membranes arranged outward from the center like the gills of a mushroom. The mouth surface of tubelip wrasses also includes many folds loaded with highly productive mucus-secreting glands. In other words, their lips drip with slime.

High-speed video images of feeding tubelip wrasses showed that they briefly place their lips in contact with the coral prior to delivering a powerful suck. Rather than grabbing onto coral, they appear to seal the mouth over a small area, presumably to increase suction-feeding efficiency, the researchers report. The new evidence suggests the tubelip wrasses and their mucus-laden lips survive by feeding primarily on coral mucus. The findings open up a whole new way of looking at the nature of feeding in fishes, the researchers say.

“One always assumes that fishes feed using their teeth, but, like us, the lips can be an essential tool,” Bellwood says. “Imagine feeding without lips or cheeks; the same applies to fishes.”

On their quest to learn how the wrasses cope with the challenge of reef feeding, the researchers say the next step is to discover the “magic of the mucus.”

See also here.

New worm-snail species discovered on Florida shipwreck


This 2015 video from the USA is called Florida Keys Snorkeling (Key West vs Key Largo).

From the Field Museum in Chicago, USA:

‘Spiderman’ worm-snails discovered on Florida shipwreck

New species could have major implications for coral reef restoration

April 5, 2017

Summary: Scientists have discovered a new species of worm-snail on a shipwreck in the Florida Keys. The new species, which is colorful and shoots mucus webs to trap food, is likely an invasive species from the Indo-Pacific and could have important coral reef conservation implications.

What’s brightly colored, lives on shipwrecks, filter-feeds like a whale, and shoots webs like Spiderman? If you can’t readily come up with an answer, that’s okay: until now, such animals weren’t known to science. But as of today, scientists have announced the discovery of a new species of snail that ticks all those boxes. According to its discoverer, the snail shows “amazing adaptations and are kind of cute,” and it could play an important role in coral reef restoration work.

“These worm-snails are particularly weird animals,” says Dr. Rüdiger Bieler, Curator of Invertebrates at Chicago’s Field Museum and the lead author of a paper in the journal PeerJ describing the new snails. “And while we find lots of unusual snails, this one could have a substantial impact on coral reef restoration efforts.”

Instead of having coiled shells like most snails, worm-snails have irregularly-shaped tubular shells that they cement onto a hard surface. And while most snails are slow movers, adult worm-snails don’t move at all — instead, they stick to one spot for the rest of their lives. That makes them good candidates to live on hard surfaces like ships and coral reefs. The new species, Thylacodes vandyensis, is named for the “Vandy,” the nickname the SCUBA diving community has given to the USNS General Hoyt S. Vandenburg, a retired naval vessel intentionally sunk to serve as an artificial reef in the lower Florida Keys. This ship is the only place the new worm-snails have ever been found, glued to the vessel’s hull.

“I first got interested in these guys when I saw their giant slime glands,” says Bieler. “Normally, snails produce a trail of slime so that they can glide on it in order to move. But worm-snails are stationary — what did they need slime glands for?”

It turns out, these snails don’t use their slime to move — they use it to hunt.

“The snails have an extra pair of tentacles down near the base of their body, almost like little arms. These tentacles are what they use to shoot slime,” explains Bieler. “They shoot out a mucous web, just like Spiderman — although in slow motion. Then, microorganisms get stuck in the web, and the snails use their mouths to pull the web back in and strain the food through barbs on their tongues called radulae in order to eat. They filter-feed, much like baleen whales.”

While the worm-snails are immobile, Bieler and his co-authors from The Field Museum, Florida International University, and Cape Breton University have reason to believe that the specimens they found in Florida are a long way from home — all signs point to these snails being an invasive species from the Indo-Pacific where they had not yet been recognized.

“We know the Atlantic worm-snail fauna very well, so the likelihood of finding a new species native to the Florida Keys is pretty small,” says Bieler. “These snails might have stowed away in bilge water or the hulls on cargo ships, and once they arrived here, they were the perfect colonizers.”

The shipwrecks making up an artificial reef in the Keys seem to have been an ideal new habitat for the worm-snails. The new snails join other animals that have already been confirmed as Pacific invasives on these artificial reefs in the Florida Keys: the Orange Tube Coral and a Giant Foam Oyster, the latter discovered by Bieler’s team on another regional wreck, the Thunderbolt, in 2003.

“The living coral reefs in the Florida Keys are already full of animals,” explains Bieler, “but the deliberately scuttled shipwrecks are empty, brand-new real estate. There were fewer organisms to compete with for space on the artificial reef, and fewer resident predators that could harm them.”

But it’s not necessarily a good thing that the worm-snails have taken so well to the shipwreck. “Worm-snails can be harmful to corals and other reef organisms,” says Bieler. “They can reduce coral growth and have been shown to serve as hosts for certain blood flukes, which are parasites of loggerhead turtles.”

On top of the risks that worm-snails carry, coral reefs are in trouble all over the world. “Climate change, pollution, overfishing, and other problems are putting our reefs in danger,” says Bieler. “And while artificial reefs, such as deliberately sunk ships, might help provide additional structures for corals and other marine animals to live on, we need to carefully monitor the species present. If we don’t, non-native and potentially invasive species like Thylacodes vandyensis might eventually make its way from the artificial reef to the natural reef and cause trouble for the animals living there.”

Discovering the newly arrived snail and clam species, says Bieler, is an important step to monitoring coral reef health. “The artificial reefs could serve as the canary in the coal mine,” says Bieler. “If we monitor their presence on the shipwrecks, we can keep tabs on them and potentially stop them from spreading to the living reefs.”

Despite the havoc that the worm-snails could potentially wreak, Bieler is glad to have found them. “The discovery of Thylacodes vandyensis helps highlight why museum collections are important. Without comparing countless snail specimens at The Field Museum and around the world, we wouldn’t have been able to identify these snails as a new species, and we wouldn’t be able to make the kinds of progress in monitoring and reef restoration that we’re now equipped to,” says Bieler. “Plus, they’re awfully interesting.”

See also here.

Australian Great Barrier Reef coral problems


This March 2017 WWF video is about the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. It has coral bleaching problems.

Curaçao coral reefs video


This 1 February 2017 Dutch video is about biology student Auke-Florian Hiemstra, doing research about coral around Curaçao island.

Corals may get temporary reprieve from bleaching: here.

Good coral news from the Netherlands


This 2011 video from Sweden shows dead men’s finger coral and other marine life.

Translated from the Dutch Stichting ANEMOON marine biologists:

1 JANUARY 2017 – How nice is it to start 2017 immediately with some good news from our salty waters. Dead man’s fingers, our only cold water coral species after 1994 was observed less in the Oosterschelde [estuary in Zeeland province]. In the summer of 2011 it even seemed to have disappeared. From autumn 2011 on the coral spontaneously came back. Now colonies of dead man’s fingers are seen of almost unprecedented dimensions.