The corals we find in the world's reefs have their own microbiomes, and scientists are figuring out how to feed them probiotic 'supplements' – to try and save them for future generations.
A baby coral begins life as a swimming larva adrift in the ocean. When it is big enough, the larva sinks and secures itself to the seafloor – or, if it's lucky, a healthy reef. Once settled, it begins to clone itself.
Shallow-water corals, made up of myriad different organisms, are essentially colonies of tiny animals collaborating with a marine algae called zooxanthellae, which feeds the coral and helps produce the calcium carbonate that forms reefs over thousands – or even millions – of years.
While the symbiosis between corals and zooxanthellae is somewhat well understood, scientists are just beginning to explore the full extent to which corals rely on other kinds of microbes.
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