SARASOTA (FOX 13) - In tanks at Mote Marine Laboratory, sea anemones may hold the key to what's happening to the world's coral reef systems.
Scientists Emily Hall says the organisms are essential to the health of coral reefs, giving them color and nourishment.
"Sea anemones are an important food source for certain organisms. They also provide oxygen in the water," said Emily Hall. "Just like any organism in our ecosystem, they play an important role in the food web, as well as important things for us as humans too."
But the reefs are dying off. In some parts of Florida and the Caribbean, coral cover has decreased as much as 80 percent in just the last three decades. Scientists blame several factors, but researchers at Mote are focused on climate change and ocean acidification.
What they learn from the sea anemones will give us all a better understanding of what's going on with the reefs.
"We are able to do this in a much shorter time frame than some of our coral studies," Hall explained. "We would want to look at six months to a year."
Scientists hope the study will continue to push conservation efforts and help protect one of the world's most important resources - the coral reef systems.
"This study is going to help us really try and understand; there's been a lot of work done on corals, but there is still a lot we don't know. We are finding the affects are very species-specific," she said.