Have volcanoes allowed coral dispersal?

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Scientists at the University of Hawaii believe that the production of pumice by volcanoes may have allowed corals to colonise reefs in very remote areas, says a report in The Independent.

Marine biologist Paul Jokiel found corals attached to small pieces of floating pumice and set out to investigate whether this had aided their dispersal to remote islands.

By using X-ray fluorescence techniques to trace the origins of different pieces of pumice collected on islands across the Indo Pacific, the scientists were able to develop maps showing patterns of pumice flow across the oceans.

Lab experiments, undertaken in aquaria at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, showed that corals would grow on pumice, and by comparing coral diversity to the pumice flow maps, the team spotted several similarities in distribution patterns.