Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Rare Corals Breed Their Way Out Of Trouble

Date:
October 23, 2008
Source:
ARC Centre of Excellence in Coral Reef Studies
Summary:
Rare corals may be smarter than we thought. Faced with a dire shortage of mates of their own kind, new research suggests they may be able to cross-breed with certain other coral species to breed themselves out of a one-way trip to extinction. This finding has raised hopes for the ability of the world's corals to withstand the rigors of changing climates and human impacts.

Acropora pichoni from Kimbe Bay.
Credit: Photo by Maria Beger, courtesy of ARC Centre of Excellence in Coral Reef Studies

Rare corals may be smarter than we thought. Faced with a dire shortage of mates of their own kind, new research suggests they may be able to cross-breed with certain other coral species to breed themselves out of a one-way trip to extinction.

Related Articles


This finding, released by scientists at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, has raised hopes for the ability of the world’s corals to withstand the rigors of changing climates and human impacts, says lead author Zoe Richards.

“Coral reefs worldwide face a variety of marine and land-based threats and hundreds of corals are now on the red list of threatened species. It is often assumed that rare coral species face higher risks of extinction than common species because they have very small effective population sizes, which implies that they may have limited genetic diversity and high levels of inbreeding and therefore be unable to adapt to changing conditions,” Zoe says.

“When we studied some particularly rare species of Acropora (staghorn corals), which you might expect to be highly vulnerable to extinction, we found some of them were actually hybrids – in other words they had cross-bred with other Acropora species. This breaks all the traditional rules about what a species is.” By hybridising with other species, these rare corals draw on genetic variation in other species, increasing their own potential to adapt to changing conditions.

“At this stage how it came about and who the breeding partners are isn’t entirely clear, but what is evident is that rare corals previously thought vulnerable to extinction may have more ability to adapt than initally expected” she explains.

Acropora are the main reef-builders throughout the Indian and Pacific Oceans, and so of critical importance to the ability of reefs to cope with changing conditions. However, till now, very few clear cut examples of hybridisiation were known, and some people did not even accept that corals can cross-breed, Zoe says.

The common Acropora corals occur mainly on reef crests, flats and slopes, whereas several of the rare species occupy more marginal habitats, such as the deeper or extremely shallow water zones where the common species do not grow.

“When we looked at the genetic history of rare corals, we found that they exhibited unexpected patterns of genetic diversity. This suggests that, rather than being the dying remnants of once-common species, they may actually be coral pioneers pushing into new environments and developing new traits by virtue of the interbreeding that has enabled them to survive there.

“This is good news, to the extent that it suggests that corals may have evolved genetic strategies for survival in unusual niches – and may prove tougher to exterminate than many people feared. With such tricks up their sleeve, it is even possible that the rare corals of today could become the common corals of the future.”

Corresponding author Professor David Miller of CoECRS and James Cook University says the discovery is a refreshing piece of good news amid the frequently gloomy reportage about corals nowadays. “One would expect that rare corals would be especially at risk, but we’ve found that some appear to have developed mechanisms for coping with rarity,” he says.

“Hybridising with another species actually makes a lot of genetic sense if you are rare and the next colony of your species may be hundreds of kilometres away. It suggests these creatures are far more resilient that we thought, based on what we know from the behavior of land animals.”

The paper Some Rare Indo-Pacific Coral Species Are Probable Hybrids was published by a team of researchers from CoECRS, James Cook University, the Museum of Tropical Queensland and the Australian Institute of Marine Science in the September issue of the journal PloS One.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by ARC Centre of Excellence in Coral Reef Studies. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Richards et al. Some Rare Indo-Pacific Coral Species Are Probable Hybrids. PLoS ONE, 2008; 3 (9): e3240 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0003240

Cite This Page:

ARC Centre of Excellence in Coral Reef Studies. "Rare Corals Breed Their Way Out Of Trouble." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 October 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081021094006.htm>.
ARC Centre of Excellence in Coral Reef Studies. (2008, October 23). Rare Corals Breed Their Way Out Of Trouble. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081021094006.htm
ARC Centre of Excellence in Coral Reef Studies. "Rare Corals Breed Their Way Out Of Trouble." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081021094006.htm (accessed October 23, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Black Bear Cub Goes Sunday Shopping

Black Bear Cub Goes Sunday Shopping

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Oct. 23, 2014) Price check on honey? Bear cub startles Oregon drugstore shoppers. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dances With Wolves in China's Wild West

Dances With Wolves in China's Wild West

AFP (Oct. 23, 2014) One man is on a mission to boost the population of wolves in China's violence-wracked far west. The animal - symbol of the Uighur minority there - is under threat with a massive human resettlement program in the region. Duration: 00:41 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Working Mother DIY: Pumpkin Pom-Pom

Working Mother DIY: Pumpkin Pom-Pom

Working Mother (Oct. 22, 2014) How to make a pumpkin pom-pom. Video provided by Working Mother
Powered by NewsLook.com
Goofy Dinosaur Blends Barney and Jar Jar Binks

Goofy Dinosaur Blends Barney and Jar Jar Binks

AP (Oct. 22, 2014) A collection of dinosaur bones reveal a creature that is far more weird and goofy-looking than scientists originally thought when they found just the arm bones nearly 50 years ago, according to a new report in the journal Nature. (Oct. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins