THRIVING IN THE FACE OF NATURAL EXTREMES: WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED AT OFU ISLAND, AMERICAN SAMOA, ABOUT THE FUTURE ADAPTABILITY OF CORALS?
Healthy, growing corals in the back reef lagoons of Ofu Island experience large periodic swings in temperature, pH, oxygen, and other environmental factors that conventional wisdom suggests should limit their survival. An eight-year research program has used genomics, reciprocal transplants, common gardens and standardized stress tests to show that that these corals adapt and acclimate to environmental extremes across short temporal and spatial scales. Transcriptome and genome-wide variants help pinpoint the physiological traits most central to adaptation and acclimation, and highlight the genetic machinery associated with effective adaptation. The genetic architecture of adaptation appears to involve hundreds of genes, yet each individual coral also shows the ability to adjust its physiological tolerances through rapid acclimation. In addition, symbiont type varies with location and bleaching history. A general evolutionary model suggests that a high variability in fitness traits in the face of environmental variation is expected when environmental change occurs over spatial scales that are shorter than dispersal distances. This short scale of variation is common for reef species that live across fore and back reef environments. As a result, genetic variation for environmental resilience may be a common feature of large reef populations. Using this variation to enhance future reef survival might be advanced by protection of adaptation hotspots, restoration using the most resilient colonies, and maintenance of large populations with high variability.
Palumbi, S. R., Stanford University, USA, email@example.com
Bay, R., Univ. British Columbia, Canada, firstname.lastname@example.org
Morikawa, M., Stanford, USA, email@example.com
Rose, N., Stanford Univ., USA, firstname.lastname@example.org
Ruiz-Jones, L., Stanford Univ., USA, email@example.com
Traylor-Knowles, N., Univ. Miami, USA, firstname.lastname@example.org
Thomas, L., Stanford Univ., USA, Luke.Thomas@uwa.edu.au
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