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Highlights of a Review of the Many Ways Corals Can Beat the Heat

Paper Reviewed
Baker, A.C. 2014. Climate change: many ways to beat the heat for reef corals. Current Biology 24: 10.1016/j.cub.2014.11.014.

In a review of a paper published in Current Biology by Bay and Palumbi (2014), who demonstrate that "coral heat tolerance can result from selection on a suite of genes to maintain genetic flexibility," Baker (2014) lists some of the processes that the two researchers describe in more detail, which indicate that "reef-building corals may have a broad repertoire of responses to deal with warming temperatures." And what are those responses?

In addition to their capacity for "maintaining diverse allelic variation," as described by Bay and Palumbi, Baker also mentions "front-loading genes involved in heat stress," citing Barshis et al. (2013) and Kenkel et al. (2013), "employing rapid acclimatization pathways," citing Palumbi et al. (2014), DeSalvo et al. (2010) and Kenkel et al. (2013), plus "changing the composition of their algal symbiont communities," citing Baker et al. (2004) and Berkelmans and van Oppen (2006), and "maintaining a healthy pool of microbial associates" in order "to prevent infection and disease during recovery from heat stress," citing Bourne et al. (2009).

And ending on a note of optimism, Baker thus writes that "these diverse responses provide hope that the world's remaining corals may still contain the adaptive ingredients needed to survive."

Baker, A.C., Starger, C.J., McClanahan, T.R. and Glynn, P.W. 2004. Corals' adaptive response to climate change. Nature 430: 741.

Barshis, D.J., Ladner, J.T., Oliver, T.A., Seneca, F.O., Traylor-Knowles, N. and Palumbi, S.R. 2013. Genomic basis for coral resilience to climate change. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 110: 1387-1392.

Bay, R.A. and Palumbi, S.R. 2014. Multi-locus adaptation associated with heat resistance in reef-building corals. Current Biology 24: 2952-2956.

Berkelmans, R. and van Oppen, M.J.H. 2006. The role of zooxanthellae in the thermal tolerance of corals: a 'nugget of hope' for coral reefs in an era of climate change. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, Biological Sciences 273: 2305-2312.

Bourne, D.G., Garren, M., Work, T.M., Rosenberg, E., Smith, G.W. and Harvell, C.D. 2009. Microbial disease and the coral holobiont. Trends in Microbiology 17: 554-562.

DeSalvo, M.K., Sunagawa, S., Voolstra, C.R. and Medina, M. 2010. Transcriptomic responses to heat stress and bleaching in elkhorn coral Acropora palmata. Marine Ecology Progress Series 402: 97-113.

Jones, A.M., Berkelmans, R., Van Oppen, M.J.H., Mieog, J.C. and Sinclair, W. 2008. A community change in the algal endosymbionts of a scleractinian coral following a natural bleaching event: field evidence of acclimatization. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 275: 1359-1365.

Kenkel, C.D., Meyer, E. and Matz, M.V. 2013. Gene expression under chronic heat stress in populations of the mustard hill coral (Porites astreoides) from different thermal environments. Molecular Ecology 22: 4322-4334.

Palumbi, S.R., Barshis, D.J., Traylor-Knowles, N. and Bay, R.A. 2014. Mechanisms of reef coral resistance to future climate change. Science 344: 895-898.

Posted 15 April 2015