[Coral-List] Proliferation of Acropora prolifera

Zoe Richards Zoe.Richards at museum.wa.gov.au
Tue Sep 10 02:55:26 EDT 2013

Dear coral-listers

Thank you for drawing our attention to the expansion of A. prolifera populations - this is absolutely fascinating given the depletions that are occurring to populations of many other Acropora species.  Furthermore,  it is very intriguing to learn of individuals  of A. prolifera with multiple morphologies. While various seminal studies have confirmed A. prolifera has a hybrid ancestry - the contention surrounding 'hybrids' runs deep and as Vassil points out - the hybrid stigma provides a huge challenge for threatened species conservation (see Richards et al., 2010 for further discussion of the mismatch between threatened species listing processes and real-world conservation needs).

As I am sure most of you are aware, in the Indo-Pacific Acropora communities can be exceptionally diverse (up to 60 Acropora species at a single location).  For a handful of the ~ 35 Indo-Pacific Acropora species that I have examined, nuclear and mitochondrial sequencing has revealed some candidate hybrid species (esp. among rare species Richards et al., 2008- PLoS One; Richards et al., 2013 MPE).   Unfortunately however, to date I have not been able to confirm the parental lineages.  Nevertheless, one thing seems for certain, complex evolutionary processes maintain diversity in this genus.  From my view, the processes that maintain diversity and ultimately - lead to speciation are incredibly important to study in our modern day given how rapidly the marine environment is changing.

There are lots of interesting questions yet to be resolved regarding the nature and extent of hybridization via secondary contact or otherwise (in not only corals but many other marine inverts and reef fish - see Hobbs et al., 2009 ) - and I would encourage others to get involved in this line of research.  Overall I agree there is an underlying need to re-evaluate conservation policies for marine inverts.


Zoe Richards

-----Original Message-----
From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov [mailto:coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov] On Behalf Of vassil zlatarski
Sent: Friday, 6 September 2013 10:37 AM
To: Coral -List
Subject: [Coral-List] Proliferation of Acropora prolifera

Dear Coral Friends,

The negligence concerning the present-day importance of the hybrid Acropora prolifera had a grey twist.  Years ago, when it began the process of listing Caribbean Acropora, originally were proposed for listing three species: A palmata, A. cervicornis and A. prolifera.  Immediately, I wrote to the employes moving the process that actually they are not three species, but two and prolifera is a hybrid, in order to attract attention to its nature. Guess what?  The effect was counterproductive, they took prolifera out of the listing process, because only species can be listed!  I continued unsuccessfully to appeal for study and preservation of the hybrid because its recent more frequent presence and growing importance in the time of losing coral reefs.  Is it so difficult to made an amendment to the regulations?  What is the purpose to have regulations if they do not serve for the best?  You see, I am struggling to pay for my involuntary sin.

I would be great if our colleagues with long-term observationshare thoughts about prolifera and the Caribbean Acropora intra-generic shift.  Thanks in advance!



Vassil Zlatarski
D.Sc. (Biology), Ph.D. (Geology)

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