Morphological stasis masks ecologically divergent coral species on tropical reefs
© Andrey Nekrasov/Getty Images
Whole-genome sequencing of a species of coral found in tropical coral reefs across the Indo-Pacific has revealed it may in fact represent a range of different species that look similar but are genetically distinct.
The reef-building corals that are the foundations of coral reefs are thought to consist of only around 750–850 species based on their shape and structure.
Now, a molecular and genetic analysis by a team led by researchers from the University of Queensland in Australia has found evidence that these corals are far more diverse than their appearance suggests.
The team analysed the genome of serpent coral and discovered that even corals that are structurally similar may be entirely different species. This suggests that the diversity of corals may be much higher than previously thought.
- Current Biology 31, 2286–2298 (2021). doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2021.03.028