Hybridization and the evolution of reef coral diversity

Science. 2002 Jun 14;296(5575):2023-5. doi: 10.1126/science.1069524.


Hundreds of coral species coexist sympatrically on reefs, reproducing in mass-spawning events where hybridization appears common. In the Caribbean, DNA sequence data from all three sympatric Acropora corals show that mass spawning does not erode species barriers. Species A. cervicornis and A. palmata are distinct at two nuclear loci or share ancestral alleles. Morphotypes historically given the name Acropora prolifera are entirely F(1) hybrids of these two species, showing morphologies that depend on which species provides the egg for hybridization. Although selection limits the evolutionary potential of hybrids, F(1) individuals can reproduce asexually and form long-lived, potentially immortal hybrids with unique morphologies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bayes Theorem
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Calmodulin / genetics
  • Caribbean Region
  • Cnidaria / anatomy & histology
  • Cnidaria / classification*
  • Cnidaria / genetics*
  • Cnidaria / physiology
  • Collagen / genetics
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics
  • Ecosystem*
  • Environment
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Haplotypes
  • Hybridization, Genetic*
  • Introns
  • Likelihood Functions
  • Polymorphism, Genetic
  • Reproduction
  • Reproduction, Asexual
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Species Specificity


  • Calmodulin
  • DNA, Mitochondrial
  • Collagen