[Coral-List] corals show increased ability to withstand heat in experiments

Douglas Fenner douglasfennertassi at gmail.com
Thu May 22 21:30:38 EDT 2014

Lamarck was partially right—and that is good for

C. Mark Eakin

Tabletop corals can adapt to changing temperature conditions on shorter
time scales than previously thought [Also see Report by Palumbi *et al.*]

Ocean warming is one of the most urgent threats to coral reefs (*1*–*3*).
Some taxa may migrate in response to changing environmental conditions (*4*),
but corals and other sessile organisms only migrate through larval movement
(*5*). This is viable for coral species with planktonic larvae, but not for
the many coral species with crawl-away larvae that cannot migrate far.
Adult corals must therefore adapt evolutionarily or acclimate
physiologically to survive warming. On page 895 of this issue, Palumbi *et
al.* (*6*) show that tabletop corals (see the first photo) can both
acclimate and adapt to elevated temperatures in American Samoan back-reef
pools (see the second photo), where high-temperature extremes are common.
If the result holds for other species and locations, it provides hope for
coral reefs under global warming.


*Mechanisms of reef coral resistance to future climate change

Stephen R. Palumbi *et al.*

The coral *Acropora hyacinthus* is capable of rapid acclimation to high
temperatures [Also see Perspective by Eakin]

   1. Stephen R.
   * <http://www.sciencemag.org/content/344/6186/895.abstract#corresp-1>,
   2. Daniel J.
   † <http://www.sciencemag.org/content/344/6186/895.abstract#fn-1>,
   3. Nikki Traylor-Knowles<http://www.sciencemag.org/search?author1=Nikki+Traylor-Knowles&sortspec=date&submit=Submit>
   4. Rachael A.

Reef corals are highly sensitive to heat, yet populations resistant to
climate change have recently been identified. To determine the mechanisms
of temperature tolerance, we reciprocally transplanted corals between reef
sites experiencing distinct temperature regimes and tested subsequent
physiological and gene expression profiles. Local acclimatization and fixed
effects, such as adaptation, contributed about equally to heat tolerance
and are reflected in patterns of gene expression. In less than 2 years,
acclimatization achieves the same heat tolerance that we would expect from
strong natural selection over many generations for these long-lived
organisms. Our results show both short-term acclimatory and longer-term
adaptive acquisition of climate resistance. Adding these adaptive abilities
to ecosystem models is likely to slow predictions of demise for coral reef

Douglas Fenner
Contractor with Ocean Associates, Inc.
PO Box 7390
Pago Pago, American Samoa 96799  USA

phone 1 684 622-7084

"belief in climate change is optional, participation is not."

website:  http://independent.academia.edu/DouglasFenner


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