A new study by Stony Coral from a group of scientists from New York, California, Israel, England, and Germany is highly relevant to all life on this planet.

According to the study published in Scientific Reports, the stony coral exhibits behavioral traits similar to those of the last mass extinction about 66 million years ago. How is that possible to test, you ask?

Coral skeletons leave excellent fossil records for scientists, which also include behavioral traits. Dynamic modes of survival include the coral complex; “Increased prevalence of deep water, cosmopolitan distributions, non-symbiotic relationships with algae, solitary or small colonies, and resistance to bleaching.” These are the features that the current coral shows.

The information in the fossil records comes from data from the Red List of the Modern International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). This is the world’s most comprehensive source of information on the global conservation status of plant, animal and fungal species.

David Gruber, a marine biologist at The Graduate Center, CUNY and Baruch College, commented on the teams’ findings:

When we finally put it all together and saw the result, it was at that moment that the hair on the back of his neck stood on end. It was incredibly creepy to witness how corals now exhibit the same traits as in the last major extinction event. The corals appear to be preparing to jump across an extinction limit, while we are putting our foot forward on the pedal.

The study highlighted the fact that primates do not show survival characteristics, or have a record of mass extinction, as some corals do. The team was actually able to look at the data on the fossil corals from 250 million years ago and compare them to the extinction event from 66 million years ago and compare them with those on display today.

The data revealed an 18% decrease in photosimiosis, an 18% decrease in coloniality, and a 12% decrease in shallow habitats. They also noted that the slowest-growing coral toward evolutionary selection, which they said could improve their chances of survival.

The (white) lesions eat the tissue of the labyrinth corals on the Flat Cay reef near St. Thomas in the USA. USA Virgin islands
Image: M BRANDT

Unfortunately, coral reefs around the world are dying. Last year, a mysterious disease killed more than half of the stony coral reef in the Caribbean in just four months. Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has been in decline for years and threatens longer life in a marine heat wave, and Red Sea corals are having a difficult time spawning, leading to a decline in their population.

A mass extinction does not mean that all life will die, but it does mean that a large percentage of current life forms on this planet will perish. As humans, we have no idea if we can survive or not. As Gruber told Newsweek: “Although we think we are strong and resistant, we are actually very delicate compared to other species.”

It is obvious that other extinctions have occurred and that humans have played no role. However, it is also very clear that humans are playing an important role in accelerating climate change, giving us the opportunity to correct our mistakes. But we must act now! Gruber closed his comments by saying:

We can put a person on the moon, we can invent all these amazing technologies. We can reverse this in due course if we have the motivation. But what the data shows is not doing that. Putting our foot forward on the pedal, while the corals react and change.