June 15, 2012
Iliana Baums, a biologist at Penn State University, explained her research last night after dinner. She’s looking at Porites lobata, a major reef-building coral in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, and its identical-looking relative P. evermanni, and how they fit into the greater reef ecosystems. (These are what’s known as cryptic species, meaning they look the same morphologically but are genetically distinct.) She described the three-way interaction between the Porites corals, the mussels that bore into them, leaving distinctive keyhole-shaped holes, and the triggerfish that bite the coral trying to get at the mussels inside.