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November 11 2012

Chemical warfare on the reef

There are lots of organisms that don't have a brain, but can still communicate. Bacteria coordinate their growth, plants signal distress and lure insects in with scents and coloring. Now, researchers have listened in on some of the communication going on in a coral reef, and found that the organisms are saying the equivalent of things like "help me!" and "die!" Finding Nemo, this isn't.

At the root of these communications is a competition between corals and an algae called Chlorodesmis fastigiata. In the wild, the algae can start growing on reefs, where it is able to send a simple message to nearby coral: die.

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