Sunday, 1 January 2012

Digestive Acts of Sea Cucumbers May Be Dissolving Coral Reefs

Sea cucumbers secrete acidic compounds that may be weakening the structure of the coral communities in which they live.

The main component of a coral reef is calcium carbonate (CaCO3), a mineral that makes up the corals and much of the sand and rubble around them. Many of the organisms living on the reef either add to or absorb CaCO3 from the surrounding environment. In a healthy reef this would be in balance, but when the calcium carbonate is out of whack, the reef may be unhealthy and could cease to grow.

The researchers studied a part of Australia's Great Barrier Reef known as One Tree Reef. In one specific area, called DK13, they found lots of sea cucumbers. They collected these squishy animals and studied them in the lab.

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