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Dance of the microbes: Bacteria living near coral reefs change in synchrony across distances

It might be called the dance of the microbes. It happens every day -- and night. Bacteria in waters above dozens of coral reefs change dramatically during the night, scientists have discovered, then return to the same daytime community they lived in the morning before. As if these communities are all on the same schedule, the changes are synchronized in reefs separated by hundreds of miles, the researchers report. In coral reef ecosystems, microorganisms are essential for recycling nutrients that are important to reef organisms -- transforming bits of organic matter into nitrogen and phosphorus, for example. Investigations of day and night rhythms of reef processes are needed to understand the roles of microbes in these ecosystems. Ongoing work shows that a reef's health can alter the number and type of microbes in seawater, highlighting the consequences of altering reef habitats.

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