This animation zooms into a coral reef to explore the tiny animals that build reefs, the photosynthetic algae inside their cells, and the damaging process of coral bleaching.
Corals get much of their energy from symbiotic algae that live inside their cells. When ocean temperatures rise beyond a certain threshold, the algae’s photosynthetic machinery may be damaged and produce harmful reactive oxygen molecules. This animation shows how corals subsequently eject their algae in a process called coral bleaching, which causes the corals to turn white and often eventually die.
Depending on students’ backgrounds, it may be helpful to pause the animation at various points to discuss specific parts of the corals or algae, as well as different steps in the coral bleaching process.
algae, chloroplast, dinoflagellate, global warming, marine biology, oceanography, photosynthesis, polyp, symbiosis, zooxanthellae
Accessibility Level (WCAG compliance)
AP Biology (2019)
ENE-1, ENE-4, SYI-1
IB Biology (2016)
2.9, 8.3, C.1
AP Environmental Science (2020)
Topic(s): 1.1, 1.3, 1.4, 9.6
IB Environmental Systems and Societies (2017)
Vision and Change (2009)