The health benefits of eating probiotic bacteria for our gut health has long been lauded, and we think nothing of eating a probiotic yoghurt to keep our tums in tip top shape. Now scientists have discovered that probiotics could be an important health tool for something else altogether – coral reefs. Scientists discovered that corals rely on good bacteria, just like we do, to keep them healthy – and that their good and bad bacteria is often disrupted during times of stress, leading them prone to infections and less likely to survive.
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Bleaching is a big threat to corals, causing them to turn white and often die
Scientists first experimented by injecting corals with probiotics, but decided to feed them plankton enriched with probiotics instead; the plankton absorbs the good bacteria through the water, and the coral then feeds on the plankton. These corals were found to be better at coping with stresses, like rising water temperature, which can cause 'bleaching' - when reefs turn to white and often die.
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Federal University of Rio de Janeiro Professor, Raquel Peixoto, along with her international research collaborators were able to prove the breakthrough for the first time in a laboratory setting. "This finding is an exciting breakthrough in boosting the ability of coral species to survive in times of stress and help them cope with a changing climate." The team are also researching ways to deliver the probiotics to coral reefs, including delivering parcels of slow-release probiotics to reefs in danger of bleaching.
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