Fluorescent Coral

Corals light up as fluoro symbiosis found, according to Nature News 5 July 2017, Nature Middle East 20 July 2017 and Proceedings of the royal Society B doi: 10.1098/rspb.2017.0320, published online 5 July 2017.

Coral reefs have long been known as a classic example of symbiosis, consisting of a combination of coral polyps and algae. Coral polyps build the reef structure and provide nutrients and carbon dioxide to the algae, which make food by photosynthesis. The brilliant colours of coral reefs come from pigments in the algae and from fluorescent proteins in the coral polyps. Corals growing in shallow waters contain fluorescent proteins that convert UV light to green light. This is not just to enhance the colour of the corals – it provides protection from strong sunlight.

In 2015 scientists found corals glowing in the dark underworld of the Red Sea, some growing at depths of 50-60 metres (165-197ft). These beautiful glowing fluorescent corals intrigued scientists as these corals grow in low light conditions, where they don’t need protection from strong sunlight. The light they do get is mainly at the blue end of the sunlight spectrum, and the fluorescence comes from the deep water corals converting some of this light to red-orange colours, which can penetrate deeper into the coral structure and provide the symbiotic algae with more light for photosynthesis.

The corals do all this by using special proteins named photoconvertible red fluorescent proteins (pcRFPs). The research team set up an experiment to simulate deep water conditions in their laboratory and showed that the red fluorescent corals survived better than corals without these light converting proteins.

Jörg Wiedenmann of University of Southampton, who led the study, commented: “Corals need special features to adjust to life in these low-light depths for the benefit of their vital photosynthetic partners”. He also stated “Our study supports the notion that symbiotic corals living at greater depths have evolved sophisticated adaptations to the challenges imposed by the special light environment”.

Nature News, Nature Middle East

Editorial Comment: This is certainly a sophisticated system to enable corals to grow in an environment with limited light, but it could not have evolved by chance random processes. Simply finding themselves in deep water with low levels of mostly blue light will kill off the coral, meaning they wouldn’t even have time to change their genes to make the light converting proteins needed to convert blue light to red-orange light. Furthermore, these red light fluorescent proteins are of no use to the coral polyps unless they already have the right photosynthetic algae to shine the light onto. These corals survive in low light conditions because they already have the proteins that do this, in the same way the shallow water corals survive in strong sunlight because they already have the UV light protective proteins.

Symbiotic relationships such as coral polyps and algae are a good reminder that living systems had to be created quickly in order to survive and thrive. Six days of creation will work, where millions of years of evolution will not.

Photo of fluorescent coral from Eyal G, Wiedenmann J, Grinblat M, D’Angelo C, Kramarsky-Winter E, Treibitz T, et al. (2015) Spectral Diversity and Regulation of Coral Fluorescence in a Mesophotic Reef Habitat in the Red Sea. PLoS ONE 10(6): e0128697. doi:10.1371/ journal.pone.0128697. Creative Commons License CC BY 4.0

Evidence News vol. 17 No. 15
2 August 2017
Creation Research Australia

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