Resilient Coral

An underwater photo of coral recovering from a bleaching event.
Amanda Feuerstein

Is it lights out for corals once they have experienced a bleaching event? Not necessarily. This photo shows a coral reef near Bocas del Toro, Panama that is in the process of recovering from a mass bleaching event that occurred in the summer of 2010. The tops contain some bleaching, but the sides look healthy. Warm waters had caused the corals to lose their zooxanthellae, the single-celled algae that provide food for the coral and the beautiful colors that we so often see on coral reefs. Upon returning to the reef a year after the bleaching event, the researchers observed that many of the coral heads were headed towards recovery. 

Smithsonian marine biologist Dr. Nancy Knowlton chronicled both the coral's bleaching and its recovery on the Ocean Portal blog.