You are here: HomeNewsHot TopicsProtocooperation turns small corals into jellyfish killers

Collective predation among relatively small polyps allows the stony coral Astroides calycularis to access food resources well beyond its gape, thereby exploiting ephemeral, highly abundant patches of large prey, such as the venomous mauve stinger Pelagia noctiluca, the jellyfish responsible for the majority of “bites” among bathers in the Mediterranean Sea. A paper published by the journal Ecology describes for the first time coral colonies displaying synchronized capture of the jellyfish. Collective synchronization of foraging provides immediate benefits to the fitness of engaged individuals with relatively little cost. fig 2These attributes allow for the selection of the observed behaviour over evolutionary time through, e.g., the tendency of colonies to form aggregations, the so-called “bioconstructions”. The facultative mutualistic behaviour observed by researchers of the Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn of Naples, in collaboration with colleagues from CNR and the Universities of Bologna and Edinburgh, is the first described case of “protocooperation” among corals. The discovery opens new scenarios toward the understanding of the social behavior in metazoans, of the ways energy and matter flow within the marine environment, and even of the biology of corals.

The discovery raised interest of media all over the world, including the National Geographic.

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