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June 9, 2014

Even healthy corals have viruses

Corals are important ecosystem engineers, providing habitat and nutrient recycling to tropical reefs. However, coral species' richness and abundance are in decline worldwide, due in large part to the impacts from global industrialization and human population growth. Coral disease is a major contributor to this decline of tropical reefs, and therefore, investigations into the causes of and remedies to these diseases are of critical importance. With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), microbiologist Rebecca Vega-Thurber and her team at Oregon State University collect coral samples during diving expeditions and analyze the DNA in order to learn more about the role of viruses in the biology of coral. Some viruses are present even in healthy coral, similar to the way chicken pox or herpes viruses are present in healthy humans.

Credit: National Science Foundation

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