Resistance to thermal stress in corals without changes in symbiont composition

Proc Biol Sci. 2012 Mar 22;279(1731):1100-7. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2011.1780. Epub 2011 Oct 5.


Discovering how corals can adjust their thermal sensitivity in the context of global climate change is important in understanding the long-term persistence of coral reefs. In this study, we showed that short-term preconditioning to higher temperatures, 3°C below the experimentally determined bleaching threshold, for a period of 10 days provides thermal tolerance for the symbiosis stability between the scleractinian coral, Acropora millepora and Symbiodinium. Based on genotypic analysis, our results indicate that the acclimatization of this coral species to thermal stress does not come down to simple changes in Symbiodinium and/or the bacterial communities that associate with reef-building corals. This suggests that the physiological plasticity of the host and/or symbiotic components appears to play an important role in responding to ocean warming. The further study of host and symbiont physiology, both of Symbiodinium and prokaryotes, is of paramount importance in the context of global climate change, as mechanisms for rapid holobiont acclimatization will become increasingly important to the long-standing persistence of coral reefs.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acclimatization*
  • Alveolata / genetics
  • Alveolata / physiology
  • Animals
  • Anthozoa / genetics
  • Anthozoa / microbiology
  • Anthozoa / physiology*
  • Climate Change
  • Coral Reefs
  • Genotype
  • Oceans and Seas
  • Stress, Physiological*
  • Symbiosis*
  • Temperature*