For a long time, scientists have wondered how a large number of species can live together while competing for a single, limiting resource. Why doesn’t a single species that is better at competing for the resource crowd out all the others? According to new findings appearing in American Naturalist, the answer to this question on coral reefs is like a very big game of rock-paper-scissors.
Coral larvae depend on their parents to create nooks and crannies for them so that they can stay, settle and re-establish after a reef has been damaged, according to new findings published this week.
“Storms, floods, and coral bleaching damage coral reefs,” explains Professor Andrew Baird from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University. “As reefs recover from these events, they depend on free-swimming coral larvae to attach to a hard surface, grow, and replenish the area.”