Claim: GM Coral to Save Global Warming Endangered Reefs

Researcher Annie Lamb
Researcher Annie Lamb helps to settle tiny coral hybrids onto the central Great Barrier Reef to determine if they can help protect reefs from warming waters. Source Australian Government

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

Over hundreds of millions of years, Coral managed to survive the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event which wiped out the dinosaurs, and who knows what other upheavals, but some scientists are convinced that without human intervention, a few degrees of anthropogenic global warming will finish them off.

In-vitro baby corals may cope with temperature rise thanks to science

21 March 2019

The answer to protecting coral reefs from climate change, may be found in the genes of the first ever tiny hybrid coral babies to be rehomed on the Great Barrier Reef.

This research is part of a larger approach led by the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) into reef restoration and adaptation science to help coral reefs adapt, recover and survive warming ocean conditions.
The three-month-old corals were raised in Australia’s National Sea Simulator, at AIMS, and were last week settled at a reef in North Queensland.

Madeleine van Oppen, an ecological geneticist and Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow at the Australian Institute of Marine Science and the University of Melbourne, is leading a project which utilises in-vitro fertilisation techniques to help reef-building corals adapt to rising sea temperatures.

Most corals in the wild are now living at the very top of their survival limit in terms of temperature,” Professor van Oppen said.

“But these corals are showing promise; we have seen some coral hybrids grow and survive better under elevated temperature and acidity levels, compared to their parents.

“They have shown resilience in the lab so now we have placed them back on reef where their parents were originally collected, to see how they survive in their natural environment.

“Controlled field testing is an important next step when assessing the benefits and risks of intervention methods aimed at increasing resilience, and for future coral reef restoration,” van Oppen said.
Prof van Oppen said hybridisation is the fertilisation of organisms of different varieties or species to create a hybrid, which does sometimes occur in the wild.

This five-year project has been undertaken in Australia and Hawaii, with a $4-million funding grant from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, and additional funding from AIMS.

Prof van Oppen is a key speaker at the World Science Festival Brisbane today on a panel discussion entitled Our Jewelled Seas: Future-proofing the Great Barrier Reef.

Find out more about this research published in Nature Scientific Reports today:

Emma Chadwick, media officer
0412 181 919 or


Given Coral species have survived mass extinction events, major climate shifts, far higher CO2 levels than today and other large and often rapid upheavals, suggesting a few degrees of global warming is a serious threat to the survival of coral is absurd.

But Australian academics may not feel free to object to such claims; when James Cook University academic Peter Ridd tried to suggest some claims about the Great Barrier Reef are not backed by evidence, he got fired, though the University claims Ridd’s dismissal has nothing to do with his views on reef science.

61 thoughts on “Claim: GM Coral to Save Global Warming Endangered Reefs

  1. Isn’t there a temperature difference between the south end of the Great Barrier Reef, and areas much closer to the equator? If coral are really all that temperature sensitive, there should be a marked difference over that range.
    Plus, corals also have varying populations of symbiotic algae, so which are being bred? Both the actual coral and the algae or only one or the other?

    • These polyps have been bred in a Simulator. Now they are taking a step from a model world to the real world. It might test the quality of the Model.

        • Ah yes, HotScot and CG!

          The list of items man has purposely genetically modified that are self supportive in the natural world is… Almost if not definitively zilch.

          “ecological geneticist and Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow at the Australian Institute of Marine Science and the University of Melbourne”

          Has essentially created a new field of science and placed herself as the reigning expert, while she announced unfalsifiable claims.

          Another flim-flam artist.

    • It is even more than that. They know that the coral reefs will be fine, but have to pretend they are endangered. If they do nothing then people will soon notice that the reefs are fine and sack the con-artists. This way they can claim that the reefs were endangered, but they saved them. So they cover up their lies and get paid to do so, win-win for them, lose-lose for the taxpayer.

      It is a bit like the desperation to cut CO2, because it is the only way to bring the models in line with the real world.

      • Exactly!!!! Global warming is the business of selling solutions to non-existent problems. Success is guaranteed because the problems aren’t real. The only loser is the taxpayer, but it is the taxpayer’s lot in life to lose.

  2. If we don’t start Genetically Modifying humans the level of stupid that is accumulating is going to doom us.

    • What we need to consider is NOT saving them from themselves, and allow natural forces to regulate the situation.
      Remove idiot warnings on many products for a start and eliminate the ability to sue a manufacturer because you are stupid.

      • With you again on that one, Rocket. Do you live in California? Everything there causes cancer (unless it can be proven not to, which nothing has been successful at so far). And if there isn’t a sign saying something is dangerous (standing on the edge of a cliff, don’t hold hot coffee between your legs, et al.) then someone can be sued.

  3. I can envision in 50 years or so where the GM corals have totally taken over the other native corals and the reef is a mono culture of nothing but one GM species. Is this a legitimate concern on my part?

    • No issues – unless you consider other interventions in Australia to have been a problem.
      – Cane toads, Prickly Pear, Foxes, Rabbits, Pigs, Cats, Dogs, Camels, Horses, Goats, Blackberries, etc, etc, etc. What can possibly go wrong?

  4. The Headline is rather misleading.
    These are not GM organisms in the modern sense of manipulated gene splicing. These are hybrid species made by traditional cross breeding methods. These hybrids occur in nature and only by forcing the hybridization through laboratory controlled seclusion/exclusion have they increased the reproduction rate over random natural occurrence.
    Nature is and has been doing this in a never ending process. Its called evolution. If environmental factors favor the hybrid species then it will flourish. Nature has multitudes of natural hybrid variations all of which are testing their mettle in the world of survival. Some will win and some will lose.

    • These are hybrid species made by traditional cross breeding methods. These hybrids occur in nature and only by forcing the hybridization through laboratory controlled seclusion/exclusion have they increased the reproduction rate over random natural occurrence.

      Iffen those hybrids occur in nature .…. and capable of surviving in nature ….. then why haven’t they been reproducing in nature and colonizing or recolonizing reefs?

      If no known colonies of said hybrid exists, shouldn’t one assume that environmental factors DO NOT favor said hybrid species?

      • They do…
        Coral reefs can even handle being denigrated as endangered species…

        Hybrid Corals: Sex Gone Awry or Saving Grace?
        As the full moons of late summer and fall rise, so too, does the libido of threatened staghorn (Acropora cervicornis) and elkhorn (Acropora palmata) corals.

        By Marah J. Hardt on September 25, 2014

        As the full moons of late summer and fall rise, so too, does the libido of threatened staghorn (Acropora cervicornis) and elkhorn (Acropora palmata) corals. Awakened from a year of sexual slumber, each species shakes off the shackles of celibacy to engage in a mass-spawning a few days after the brightest nights. Facing declines of up to 97 percent in the past 30 years, these two species have been beaten back by disease, pollution, overfishing and climate change. Their yearly spawning should be a time of celebration. But after millions of years of successful group sex, the very act of reproduction may now be contributing to their ultimate demise.

        A report this summer adds to a growing body of evidence that another coral, Acropora prolifera, may be overtaking reef real estate formerly occupied by elkhorns and staghorns. Far from a foreign invader, genetic tests show this coral is in fact the offspring of an elkhorn and staghorn cross. A. prolifera is a hybrid. And its apparent rise is an indication of coral sex gone awry.


        If Acropora cervicornis and Acropora palmata can interbreed to produce genetically viable offspring (Acropora prolifera), they are not distinct species and should not be listed as endangered species. Acropora is not endangered, prolifera should be a big, fat clue.

        Coral reefs appear to be adapting quite well to climate change and Chicken Little of the Sea, if not adapting so well to scuba divers, snorkelers, agricultural runoff and idiots fishing with dynamite.

        • OK, I now understand the problem, and its because of ….

          This five-year project has been undertaken in Australia and Hawaii, with a $4-million funding grant from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, and additional funding from AIMS.

        • This is the problem with the gratuitous use of acronyms and initialisms among climate activists and “scientists”: I skimmed through the entire article and half of the comments, looking for how General Motors got all spooled up about saving coral.

          I work in the field of commercial space transportation, and we don’t have anywhere near the alphabet soup that the climate game utilizes. The popular view of space launch comes from movies like Apollo 13 and the truly magnificent current film Apollo 11. And I’m firmly convinced that the climate clowns think that making virtually everything that comes out of their mouth into an acronym or initialism will confer on them the imprimatur of people who accomplished the incredible feat of putting human beings on the moon. But most people in my profession regard acronyms and initialisms as a necessary evil, to be minimized as much as possible – and when we must use one more than once in writing, the first use is always the spelled out phase, followed by the contraction in parentheses. Always, and without exception (unlike climate clowns, who never do so – thus revealing a cargo cult mentality vis-a-vis their professional standing).

          • Say that again ……..

            the first use is always the spelled out phase, followed by the contraction in parentheses. Always,

          • Michael, ….. sorry bout that, ….. I noted your miss-keyed word but wasn’t making light of it via my post. My spell-check doesn’t “catch” my miss-keyed “e” n’ “s” either. 🙂 🙂

            My intent was to POINT OUT to everyone what you said ….. and thus complimenting you for telling other posters to “clean up their act” when position per se “contraction” of proper names/entities.

  5. “It’s not nice to mess with Mother Nature” (especially when it’s unnecessary). What could possibly go wrong?

    • These hybrid species already exist, just in naturally occurring numbers. The scientists are not fooling with mother nature. The are being ‘fooled’ by mother nature (well actually by themselves, but mother nature is snickering).

    • That’s my understanding, too.

      And it is important to recognise that the fecundity of corals is so astounding that nature is going to find the solution these scientists think they have found, much more quickly and more appropriately than they themselves could even hope for. All research is fun, but not all research is useful. But I guess these folk have got to justify their jobs somehow.

  6. Did anyone think to ask the Parrotfish for their thoughts on this dumb idea? I can only imagine that these GMO corals won’t reproduce. Really dumb idea. Just plant corals that are indigenous to the area. The corals will be alright anyway. They survive everything, including ice ages.

    A single giant humphead parrotfish can produce 11,000 pounds of sand per year eating and pooping coral, which makes for nice white sand beaches. An average parrotfish can produce 800 pounds of sand per year. We do need to protect the parrotfish for the long term health of the corals. I can’t think of another species other than earthlings who have terraformed the good Earth so much.

    • The parrot fish may find these new hybrids tasty, or not find them at all.
      I might go even further and suggest that these researchers didn’t even ask very many people what they thought of their idea either.

    • Because they don’t eat coral and their innate fear of “global warming” scares the bejesus out of them.

    • “..and the anti-GMO, anti-science, global warming idiots embrace this why?”
      Willful ignorance… and damned proud of it!

  7. When these reefs were 100+ meters deeper and 10’s and 100’s of kilometers further out to sea, how did they have the sense to migrate?

      • David
        The sciencemag article doesn’t start out as though written by scientists:
        “Thirteen thousand years ago, as the last ice age ended, entire stretches of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef perished. Rising sea levels blanketed the world’s largest collection of corals with sediment coming off the newly inundated land, blocking the sunlight corals need to grow. The reef eventually recovered, but it took hundreds to thousands of years… ”
        20,000 years ago sea level was 120 meters lower than present or rather 120,000 millimeters. What kind of scientist does not see how illogical it is to say the GBR was inundated by rising sea levels even 13,000 years ago? Where did they think the GBR was 20k years ago?

        • Most Science Mag articles don’t read as if they were written by scientists. They read as if they were written by liberal arts majors who took a semester of “How to Sound All Sciency While Spouting Enviromarxist Nonesense, for Non-Science Majors 101″… because that’s what “science journalists” generally are.

        • Right on, Stephen, …… at 20,000 years ago, or 10,000, or even 8,000 years ago, ….. the area now know as the GBR might have had Palm trees, grass, weeds, etc., growing on it.

  8. Since there is no crises as Peter Ridd has pointed out this is a jobs scam. Get Ridd of the politicians of any stripe who are pushing the false narrative. The Dutch have spoken on this at the ballot box.

  9. During the last ice age 15,000 years ago the worlds oceans were 300 feet lower and the GBR would not have existed. Coral is an amazing creature.

    • It existed… It just moved…

      The reef migrated up and down during that time, the team found, closely tracking changes in sea level at a rate of up to 20 vertical meters per thousand years. And when sea level reached its lowest point 21,000 years ago—118 meters below today’s level, its lost water locked up in massive ice caps—corals survived on the outer terraces of Australia’s continental shelf, the team reports today in Nature Geosciences.

      Scientists have long wondered where the Great Barrier Reef went during the last ice age, says Jody Webster, a marine geologist at The University of Sydney in Australia and the lead author of the study. “We were able to find it.”

    • The coral they are creating is not a GM monster. Its a naturally occurring hybrid species.

      The worst that these researchers could do is wreck their research vessel on the reef and cause and environmental disaster.

      • Then why are they forcing this on the poor reef? Why don’t they look at things that we know hurt the reefs, leaking septic systems, fertilizer run off, sediment, chemical pollution ……..

      • Actually a ship wreck makes a very good reef habitat.

        They should leave well alone, nature recovers pretty well if left to its own devices, having seen that in the seas/oceans all over the world.

  10. Tearing up the Elms and planting Oaks …


    Changing the environment like that or in the way they’re planning with the change in coral is actually illegal in Australia.

  11. The title should be :

    “How I got funding for snorkeling all year long in idyllic islands thanks to the AGW scam”

  12. I wonder how much overlap there is between those who might approve of this, but oppose GMO corn.

    • These are not GMO’s unless you consider every specific breed domesticated animal a GMO. There was no gene splicing from exotic non-coral species. These were two closely related coral species that can cross-breed and create a third variety. One might even wonder if the two parent species are in fact distinct species as they seem to be able to interbreed and create a viable mixed breed. This occurrence is what traditionally separated distinct species from sub-species or breeds.

  13. This is about the stupidest research project on the GBR I’ve ever come across. Before embarking on this transplanting experiment, have the researchers drafted up an Environmental Impact Statement, held public hearings and applied for/obtained permits from the various governmental agencies responsible for the reef?
    And have they made any estimates of the cost and time involved, if their mini tests are successful, on embarking on a mega project that would have a significant positive impact on the reef as a whole? My guess it is ‘no’ to all of the above.

    • That’s a good point. You need an Environment Impact Study before paving over the gravel shoulder of a highway. You should need one for this.

  14. Can’t wait for the mobs of protesters smashing the Great Barrier Reef with sledge hammers, fighting to ‘Stop GMOs’!

  15. Having bang employed in Madang in Papua, New Guinea, enjoyed swimming around the truly magnificent Coral Reefs there .

    Now Madang is almost on the Equator, so the water is warm, comfortably so as is all such tropical; waters.

    Now once a year the Corals world wide spawn, billions of eggs are released and they drift everywhere , probably world wide, which is how the GBR recovered thousands of years ago.

    They either settle or die, so if they prefer cooler conditions, then that is where they settle, and the same fro those who like it a bit warmer.

    Yes this experiment is of interest in that they can see what nature does all of the time, but s it necessary to “Save” the GBR, or just a excuse to snorkel at the taxpayers expense. ?


  16. Okay, skim reading to some extent, but let me get this straight.

    Scientists create an artificial ocean in which they change the water temp and pH levels.
    Into this they find a coral that is happy to grow in these conditions.
    With this new ‘super coral’ (my words) they want to introduce it into the Real World in the hope that Super Coral will take over and save the reef.

    So their take on the issue is ‘we have invented Super Coral that likes the changed ocean’.

    My take is that coral is clearly able to adapt quickly to match its environment.

    So far from saving the reef with a new Super Coral capable of surviving Global Warming(tm), they have proved that coral is already capable of surviving changes, and, by extension, the reef is not actually at risk.

    Have I got that right?

  17. What occurs when half a billion $$$ is thrown around without any concern by the Liberal and National Party coalition government, in response to a bunch of hysterical JCU and former-JCU Henny-Penny’s, knowingly falsely claiming the Great Barrier Reef is doomed, because of a mere prosaic natural El Nino cycle, for which the reef has survived hundreds of thousands of such natural weather events and evolved specifically to do so.

    Do Botanists get half a billion dollars tossed there way after a bush fire destroys a massive forest? Nope! Why? It’s because everyone knows the forest has evolved to recover fast from commonplace bushfires every few years, and that it always does.

    Do Marine Biologists get half a billion dollars tossed there way after an El Nino merely temporarily degrades a massive reef? Yup! Why? Because despite everyone knowing the reef has evolved to recover fast from commonplace El-Ninos every few years, and that it always does, everyone has agreed to lie about it, to get to steal the tax-payers money, and the politicians have a greed to pretend their lies are not really lies, so politicians can try to get votes of the copious number of dummies who fall for it.

    The pointless activities of AIMS within this article is more keeping-up-appearances of science being done, because everyone who has a clue at all, knows it’s just ultra-lefty-celeb-media (ULCM) window-dressing, for a political consumer market in an election year, and has nothing at all to do with “saving the reef”, as the reef completely automatically saves itself irrespective of AIMS existing, and always will.

    Meanwhile actual scientists get shafted, by those very politicians that fanned this corruption of science, on the bloody Alter of dead tax-payers dollars, being shoveled into the pockets of brazen crooked scammers and other public-funded Universities, and supposed national marine science institutes.

  18. “Eric Worrall

    Over hundreds of millions of years, Coral managed to survive the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event which wiped out the dinosaurs, and who knows what other upheavals.”



    Correct me where I’m wrong – but that reads as “corals survived all known mass extinctions”.

  19. So this Council Laureate Fellow Madeleine van Oppen has spent 4 years keeping corals in Australia’s National Sea Simulator, at AIMS, Australia and Hawaii, at the cost of $ 0.8-million / year.

    When the money came to an end, she separated the Coral babies from their parents and dumped them into the ocean. Then she left.

    sad story.

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