113 Coral Species May Share One Important Trait

Written by on July 9, 2014 in Coral Reefs, Marine Life

Researchers are “tackling conservation of coral reefs” with the help of cross-species DNA markers.

Acropora. Photo credit: NOAA.

Acropora. Photo credit: NOAA.

Coral reefs take up only one percent of the ocean floor, but they are home to nearly a quarter of all described marine species. However, reefs around the world are threatened by warming waters, ocean acidification, and other side effects of global warming. Some corals have been shown to be more resilient than others, but the vast majority won’t be able to keep up with our changing oceans.

A new study from the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) of coral DNA may help with conservation of coral reef ecosystems around the world.

Dr. Chuya Shinzato of the OIST Marine Genomics Unit recently reported the establishment of DNA markers that might be applicable to all 113 species of Acropora reef-building corals, the most common coral genera in the Indo-Pacific. Similar to DNA-profiling in humans, this identification technique enables scientists to study genetic diversity and connectivity among all Acropora populations.

Increased genetic diversity among corals is a key factor in conservation because the more diverse the corals in one area are, the less likely it is that they will all be wiped out by the same destructive force.

There are four distinct groups of Acropora. To start, Dr. Shinzato and colleagues studied the sequenced genome of Acropora digitifera and Acropora tenius, which belong to the two most distantly related groups, and were able to identify multiple repeated DNA sequences. These repeated sequences, or markers, have been conserved for millions of years, indicating that the other 111 Acropora corals are highly likely to share the same markers.

The markers will serve as a powerful research tool to identify individual corals and will contribute to population genetics studies and conservation of Acropora worldwide.

“I truly hope the technique we have developed will contribute to coral reef transplantation and restoration,” said Shinzato.

To learn more:

Copyright © 2014 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of MarineScienceToday.com. She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .

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