It’s one of the most embarrassing, but all too common problems in the social landscape. Friday night, and the mood is right, and you want to dance dance dance. But when you look in the mirror, an unsightly flare up of herpes, and the attendant sore on the lip that comes with it. Sound familiar? (I mean, obviously it doesn’t to me… but I did have a cousin Sal who ran into this issue.) Well, it turns out there’s a new sufferer discovering an outbreak in the mirror before meeting their tinder match: coral reefs.
New OSU findings reported in the scientific journal Frontiers in Microbiology suggest that there is a serious outbreak of viruses, including the dreaded herpes, associated with coral bleaching events. The study observed three viral groups forming on the reefs in just a 72-hour period after the onset of a bleaching event.
Bleaching events refer to the changes that happen when a coral reef suffers some form of undue stress. As a result, vital algae that covers the coral flees, and deprived of their food and protection, the corals turn white and start to die. It’s a massive problem that has been linked to climate change, so we are likely to face a steadily increasing wave of these problems over the next century.
The new findings from OSU confirm troubling trends in the waters and help shine a light on a previously unknown facet of the coral issues.
“People all over the world are concerned about long-term coral survival,” said Rebecca Vega-Thurber in a press release. She’s a professor of microbiology at OSU and an author of the study. “This research suggests that viral infection could be an important part of the problem that until now has been undocumented, and has received very little attention.”
NOAA recently estimated that as much as 95% of US coral reefs were in danger of undergoing bleaching events, so this research couldn’t be more timely. Unfortunately a discreet over-the-counter remedy won’t help out the reefs like it does for my cousin Sal.
By Sidney Reilly