Hawaiian Coral

© Lauric Thiault / Tara Expeditions foundation

New stopover for the Tara Pacific expedition! For a week, the schooner will welcome coral specialists who have come to collect samples in the Hawaiian archipelago. One of our goals is to provide 120 samples to the Scientific Center of Monaco, in partnership with Monaco Explorations, interested in “tumours” observed on 3 coral reefs, including the one in Kanehoe Bay, Hawaii. 

Not much is known about these excrescences which affect about 40 species of coral. We don’t know where they come from, how they propagate, or how they respond to rising temperatures and ocean acidification. To better understand the tumours, the CSM has set up a sampling protocol in which healthy organisms and excrescences will be collected in 10 different coral colonies.

photo16_Rebecca Vega Thurber and Grace Klinges 2_VH Scientists sampling corals – © Vincent Hilaire / Tara Expeditions Foundation

Half of these samples will be treated on the spot: their DNA will be extracted at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology. The other half will be sent to Monaco where they will be cultured. Specialists in the biology of coral will work with medical biologists to conduct advanced analyses of the physiological, biochemical and molecular characteristics of these tumours, but also on the presence of oncogenes, genes that favor the appearance of cancer.

Through the analysis of these tumours, scientists hope to understand not only how they develop, but more generally, the mechanism of reef bio-mineralization — that is, the way coral makes its skeleton, and the symbiosis it sets up with the surrounding algae.

Scientists will also be able to extend the analysis to human tumours, thanks to information vital for the apprehension of biological or biomedical problems, such as the relationships between the host’s disease and associated micro-organisms.

Caroline Britz

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