Australian scientists launch study to map coral genome

Australian scientists on Thursday announced a ground-breaking genome-mapping project that that could help the Great Barrier Reef counter the twin threats of climate change and toxic farm chemicals.

Scientists would like to unlock the secrets of the colourful 'arcopora millepora' coral which forms a major component of the northeastern tourist attraction. The growth of the coral has slowed down markedly, according to scientists.

Professor David Miller of Australia's Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University says the gene-mapping project has both practical and scientific significance.

He said the research would help unlock the secrets of the coral.

The project is Australia's first attempt at gene-mapping of a complex animal and is expected to offer insights into the reason for the growth of the Reef falling off with warmer sea temperatures and chemicals present in the sea waters.

The World Heritage-listed, 345,000-square-kilometre (133,000-square-mile) reef is one of Australia's top attractions and has been short-listed in a competition to as one of the world's seven natural wonders.