CORAL REEFS. Genomic determinants of coral heat tolerance across latitudes

Science. 2015 Jun 26;348(6242):1460-2. doi: 10.1126/science.1261224.


As global warming continues, reef-building corals could avoid local population declines through "genetic rescue" involving exchange of heat-tolerant genotypes across latitudes, but only if latitudinal variation in thermal tolerance is heritable. Here, we show an up-to-10-fold increase in odds of survival of coral larvae under heat stress when their parents come from a warmer lower-latitude location. Elevated thermal tolerance was associated with heritable differences in expression of oxidative, extracellular, transport, and mitochondrial functions that indicated a lack of prior stress. Moreover, two genomic regions strongly responded to selection for thermal tolerance in interlatitudinal crosses. These results demonstrate that variation in coral thermal tolerance across latitudes has a strong genetic basis and could serve as raw material for natural selection.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acclimatization / genetics*
  • Animals
  • Anthozoa / genetics*
  • Anthozoa / physiology*
  • Coral Reefs*
  • Extinction, Biological
  • Gene Expression
  • Gene Frequency
  • Genetic Markers
  • Global Warming*
  • Hot Temperature*
  • Larva / genetics
  • Larva / physiology
  • Selection, Genetic
  • Stress, Physiological / genetics


  • Genetic Markers

Associated data

  • Dryad/10.5061/dryad.G75NQ
  • SRA/PRJNA279192
  • SRA/PRJNA279420