Roughly 30 percent of the cauliflower coral’s (Pocillopora damicornis) genome was unique compared to several other reef-building corals. In this 30%, many of these genes were related to immune function. This diversity of genes related to immune function, the researchers say, may be important for the long-term survival of coral reefs as climate change and ocean acidification continue to alter the environment to which corals are adapted.
“This coral is traditionally thought of as a weed, and yet it may be one of the last corals to survive environmental changes such as climate change,” said senior author of the study Nikki Traylor-Knowles, an assistant professor of marine biology and ecology at the UM Rosenstiel School.
An animal like the coral does not get to be a weed unless it has some remarkable abilities.
“The study shows that this is an important coral with a very complex and unique immune system, which may explain why it is able to survive in so many different locations,” said the paper’s lead author Ross Cunning, who conducted the research as a postdoctoral scientist at the UM Rosenstiel School and is now a researcher at Shedd Aquarium.
These results suggest that the evolution of an innate immune system has been a defining feature of the success of hard corals like P. damicornis, and may help facilitate their continued success under climate change scenarios. Paper. (open access) – R. Cunning, R. A. Bay, P. Gillette, A. C. Baker, N. Traylor-Knowles. Comparative analysis of the Pocillopora damicornis genome highlights role of immune system in coral evolution. Scientific Reports, 2018; 8 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-018-34459-8 More.
But how does it just happen to evolve such different immune system? What is the probability of that happening by Darwinian means in the given period of time?
Follow UD News at Twitter!
See also: Corals alter their DNA to cope with acidity
Cretaceous living fossil coral found