If you are reading this post: thank you. I don’t need to tell you that there is no shortage of choices when it comes to reading things on the internet. The massive volume of online content has led to major competition for readership. Let’s face it: it doesn’t matter what the article is about, we click on articles with catchy titles. Let’s face this too while we’re at it, this has led us to reading or watching videos about some pretty dumb stuff. But don’t worry, it’s not our fault! We click on this stuff because we’re supposed to — these articles are made specifically to feel more ‘clickable’. On the internet, this is called ‘click bait’.
Now, why are you reading about click bait in a blog about biology? Here’s why: many of us who fall victim to click bait would rather spend our time reading more interesting content, like cool new research in biology, but by the time we’re done watching a dumb video, we don’t have time to read an interesting article about biology because have to get back to work! The ‘catchiness’ of the rest of the internet is simply not being matched by the people who write about biology.
I purpose a solution: biologists and science journalists who cover biology should title their research with clickability in mind. This way, the rest of us will have an easier time finding, clicking on, and reading about the cool new research going on.
Fig. 1 Healthy coral reef (Source: Jim Maragos, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)
Here is an example: A recent article published in the Journal of Experimental and Marine Biology and Ecology is titled “Mitochondrial electron transport activity and metabolism of experimentally bleached hermatypic corals” . Your brain was probably turning off half-way through reading that title, right? But the research is actually very interesting, and you should read the article. The researchers on this project report on a faster and easier way for biologists to monitor the health of coral reefs — which is important because we all want to keep our coral reefs healthy! After all, coral reefs are some of the most productive and beautiful ecosystems on this planet. So, have you read this article yet?
Here’s the back story: One consequence of warming ocean temperatures and increasing ocean acidification due to global climate change is causing something called ‘coral bleaching’. What’s coral bleaching, you ask? It’s bad. Coral bleaching is when coral colonies lose their color and eventually collapse. The most traditional hypothesis for the way coral bleaching happens has to do with the colorful, algae-like organisms that live inside coral and give coral it’s color. These microscopic organisms are called zooxanthellae and they have a mutually-beneficial relationship with the coral they live inside — the coral provide the zooxanthellae a home, and the zooxanthellae provide the coral nutrients in return. When the warming or acidifying ocean environment harms the health of the zooxanthellae and they stop providing the coral with nutrients, the coral expels the zooxanthellae and end up turning a stark white color. If no new zooxanthellae move back into the coral, its bad news for the coral.
Fig. 2 Bleached coral, Keppel Islands, Great Barrier Reef (Source: public domain)
Recently however, biologists have begun to realize the health of coral itself (rather than just the zooxanthellae) actually plays a bigger role in the cause of coral bleaching. So, if biologists could monitor the health of the coral, maybe they could predict and help stop coral bleaching events. Unfortunately monitoring the health of coral has been a really hard thing to do.
The new research highlighted here changes that. The researchers on this project show that a simple method for measuring metabolism in coral (metabolism is the important processes like producing and consuming nutrients) might also be useful in understanding coral health and predicting bleaching events. The researchers show that an easy measure of metabolism was correlated with many indicators of coral health, such as the zooxanthellae density and the rate of photosynthesis occurring within the coral. They suggest that simple monitoring in this way could help inform biologists about potential bleaching events before they happen.
Wow! Knowing about coral bleaching events before they happen is important stuff. I love corals — why didn’t I see this article sooner?! Images of coral reefs with their colorful displays and ‘Nemo’ fish swimming around always conjure up feelings of being on vacation somewhere warm and sunny. I want us to keep coral reefs healthy for long enough for me to finally plan that trip to Australia to see them for myself.
To make sure I never miss an article like this again, maybe biologists and science journalists should consider using more ‘clickable’ titles, such as: “You won’t believe this simple trick to tell if your coral is healthy or not”.
Fig. 3 A more ‘clickable’ title?
 Agostini, S., Fujimura, H., Hayashi, H., Fujita, K. 2016. Mitochondrial electron transport activity and metabolism of experimentally bleached hermatypic corals. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology. 475:100-107 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022098115300629
More From Thats Life [Science]
- You are a fish
- Things That Glow Pink in the Night: Why do some animals have fluorescent coloration under ultraviolet light?
- When You Call a Fish a Frog
- Who’s Got the Biggest Genome of Them All?
- The Biology of Booze ft. Tequila
- Dying Tomatoes, Healthy Kittens, and the EMP500: Why you should care about the International Society for Microbial Ecology
- The Purebred Poodle Problem
- Let It Glow
- I’m Likin’ That Lichen
- Celebrate the Holidays with a Decorative Parasite
- Sleeping One Hemisphere at a Time
- Through the Mycologist's Hand Lens: Deceptive Decomposers
- Life Science in Outer Space!
- 5 Things You Didn’t Know About Rats
- Watermelon Snow
- Critter Candid Cam
- Three Cool Plants in Hot Places
- A parasite only a moth could love
- Telling tales of plants and their names
- The Colorful World of Primate Hair
- Where do fish go in winter?
- You Scratch My Back and I’ll Scratch Yours
- Alien Microbes: How studying hyperthermophiles can help us discover life on other planets
- Life, the universe, and everything: Dreams of being a biophysicist
- Bug Sleuth – One Entomologist’s Mission to ID a Mysterious Swarm of Wasps
- Horny and Hungry: The Dilemma of Sexual Cannibalism
- Who’s who? The elusive difference between butterflies and moths
- Tuberculosis - A Romantic Disease?
- Ode to a Few Arachnids
- Monotropa uniflora - This wildflower is pretty wild
- Eavesdropping in the Animal Kingdom: Sneaky Creatures Just Trying to Get Ahead
- Trypanosomes - A Weird Pathogen You Haven't Heard Of
- A Beautiful 9/11 Tribute, but a Fiasco for Migratory Birds
- Cats can have AIDS, too.
- Part 2: Does catching Pidgeys help you notice Pigeons? Interviews with Pokémon Go Researchers
- Biodiversity in my Backyard: Encounters with Pidgeys and Dratinis, Part 1
- Fins, Limbs, Rays, and Digits – A Beginner’s Guide to Terrestrial Living
- Fins, Limbs, Rays, and Digits – A Beginner's Guide to Terrestrial Living
- Five things that really stink about the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug
- Tricks but no Treats - An Orchid’s Guide to Making a Fool of Your Pollinator
- Tracking the lost years - where do baby sea turtles grow?
- Posing as a Bird Mama: the adventures of a researcher-turned-bird-parent
- Hot moves and sexy sons · When Boys Become Men By Dancing
- The hungry caterpillar in real life
- Mantis Shrimp Vision - Seeing in Secret Code
- When It Comes to Bird Beaks - Size Matters
- Is your gut trying to kill your resolve? · Mind over microbe
- Recent talk of walls in the media has brought up a lot of emotions, but what do walls do in nature? · When a Wall is just a Wall
- Bees are more than buzzing insects around you · May the Bees Be With You: Maintaining the Sweet Balance in Life
- Neither a toad nor a worm · Nematodes: The super microscopic animal!
- Snap! Flash! Bang! Find out how ocean-dwelling pistol shrimp fire bubble ‘bullets’ to stun their unsuspecting prey. · How Pistol Shrimp Kill with Bubbles
- Who needs males after all?
- Ecology and Behavior of Woodchucks · Opposition Research on My Garden’s Greatest Nemesis
- Vision in Jumping Spiders · Watching Your Every Move
- Slimed and Consumed - The Blob is Real!
- The Evolution and Ecological Impacts of Cats · Lion in Sheep's Clothing
- What happens when frogs have to compete for acoustic space and a chance to be heard? · Struggling to be Heard - Competition in a Complex Soundscape
- Think Genghis Khan and Napoleon were the most successful invaders? Think again. · Invasive Species and Invasion: Part 1
- When, and how, terror birds invade
- 8 Reasons Plants Are Amazing
- Too Clean for Comfort · How our obsession with cleanliness might be hurting our health
- Stop, evaluate, and listen - serotonin surges when a female is present
- No Teeth, Long Tongue, No Problem - Adaptations for Ant-eating
- The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly - Predators, Parasitoids, and Parasites
- How our microbiome affects our health and vice versa · If you don't care for your microbiome, you might want to start
- Finding new ways to grow bacteria to progress science · Culturing the Least Cultured Members of Society
- Hit the Road Jack
- What Happened to Your Nose?
- Building better plants - Norman Borlaug and the Green Revolution
- Love Songs for Nobody - Birdsong in Winter
- We know we get infections from time to time. Why does this happen? · The Evolution of Virulence
- How cheese rinds may be a valuable tool for microbial discovery · The Unseen World – On Cheese?
- Find Me Where the Wild Things Are
- A commentary on how to make science more ‘clickable’ · You won’t believe this simple trick to tell if your coral is healthy or not
- Some species hide in plain sight, but scientists have ways to suss them out · Cryptic Species Hide in Plain Sight
- Minuscule Hitchhikers Pinch a Ride · Creature Feature - Pseudoscorpions
- World Fish Migration Day 2016!
- Walking With Giant Anteaters
- Why we should care about sea turtles · When A Sea Turtle Balanced Earth
- More ›