Corals suffer heavily at the hand of climate change. Sensitive to water temperatures and acidity levels, corals around the world have been experiencing bleaching events and massive die-offs as the planet warms up.

But it turns out that some species of coral can put up a good fight against rising water temperatures.

One type of coral in the Red Sea not only survived in higher water temperatures in a lab setting, but thrived, according to New Scientist:

"Corals normally expel the algae living within them — a process called bleaching ­— if stressed by water 1°C warmer than the usual summer maximum for several weeks. However, a coral common in the northern part of the Red Sea can thrive even at temperatures 2°C higher than the present maximum in the area. When the coral (Stylophora pistillata) was subjected for six weeks to conditions expected from 2050 to 2100, it grew even faster than it does now... This suggests that corals in the northern Red Sea might be naturally heat-resistant and able to survive summer maximum temperatures several degrees higher than normal."

Bleached coral at low tide. Bleaching isn't the only threat to coral. Ocean acidification and pollution are destructive, too. (Photo: Ethan Daniels/Shutterstock)

The experiments testing the tolerance levels of the coral have just begun, but the results are encouraging so far. However, corals face other threats beyond temperature, including ocean acidification, pollution, destruction by humans and more. Learning about the qualities of this and other Red Sea species is one more strategy that could help lead to repopulating damaged or declining coral reefs.

Coral reefs support the majority of the marine biodiversity in our oceans, protect shorelines from storms and perform many other important functions, so their survival is critical to the overall health of the oceans and the planet.

Jaymi Heimbuch ( @jaymiheimbuch ) focuses on wildlife conservation and animal news from her home base in San Francisco.

Can heat-tolerant corals beat back climate change?
Scientists have found that coral in the northern Red Sea are not only beating the heat — they're thriving in it.