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Measuring mucus thickness in reef corals using a technique devised for vertebrate applications
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Emeritus Professor Barbara Brown
Professor John Bythell
Dr Reia Guppy
Dr Nick Morris
Professor Jeffrey Pearson
Jatkar AA, Brown BE, Bythell JC, Guppy R, Morris NJ, Pearson JP
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Abstract A method previously used to measure thickness of the surface mucus layer (SML) of the mammalian gastrointestinal tract has been applied to the SML of reef corals. It involves manual measurement of mucus thickness using a micromanipulator and fine glass needle (micropipette) and is non-destructive to the coral, meaning that repeated measurements can be taken. A measurable mucus layer was recorded in all cases in the study, which comprised 450 individual thickness measurements from four coral species. Mucus thickness ranged from 145 to 700 um. Thus, whatever dynamic processes control mucus synthesis, secretion to the tissue surface and subsequent release into the water column, a continuous mucosal barrier is maintained. A change in SML thickness was recorded as a response to aerial exposure during the natural tidal cycle and to solar exposure-induced bleaching, although the response due to bleaching varied between two studied species. The technique is rapid, cost-eVective and a simple means of assessing coral SML thickness, a variable that shows significant variation in relation to environmental conditions and is likely to be an important health indicator in these organisms.
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