Evolutionary secrets help Red Sea corals withstand heat

  • In the azure waters of the Red Sea, Maoz Fine and his team dive to study what may be the planet’s most unique coral: one that can survive global warming, at least for now.
  • The corals, striking in their red, orange and green colours, grow on tables some eight metres underwater, put there by the Israeli scientists to unlock their secrets to survival.
  • They are of the same species that grows elsewhere in the northern Red Sea and are resistant to high temperatures.
  • Global warming has in recent years caused colourful coral reefs to bleach and die around the world — but not in the Gulf of Eilat, or Aqaba, part of the northern Red Sea.
  • The Gulf of Eilat corals fare well in heat thanks to their slow journey from the Indian Ocean through the Bab al-Mandab Strait, between Djibouti and Yemen, where water temperatures are much higher.

Symbiotic relationship

  • Corals and algae “provide services for each other,” with the algae providing “up to 90% of the coral animal’s food” through photosynthesis.
  • When ocean temperatures get too hot, this symbiosis, this relationship, breaks down.
  • Fertilizers, pesticides and oil pollution “harm the corals and lower their resilience to high temperatures.
  • That would include not only Jordan and Egypt — the only two Arab states to have peace agreements with Israel — but also Saudi Arabia, with which Israel has no formal ties. “To safeguard this small body of water, we naturally need the cooperation of our neighbours since the reefs have no borders.

Gulf of Aqaba:

  • A large gulf at the northern tip of the Red Sea, east of the Sinai Peninsula and west of the Arabian mainland. Its coastline is divided between four countries: Egypt, Israel, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia.


  • a strait located between Yemen on the Arabian Peninsula, and Djibouti and Eritrea in the Horn of Africa. It connects the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden.

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