Coral Reef Responses to Global Climate Change: A genomic perspective
Monica Medina, University of California, Merced
Coral reefs are charismatic ecosystems found in tropical and subtropical waters, and they harbor the largest biodiversity of any marine environment on Earth. At the center of these ecosystems lies a symbiotic partnership between a coral host and algal endosymbionts (Symbiodinium spp), which together are responsible for the construction and maintenance of coral reef structures. Recent data suggest that prokaryotic microbes also contribute to beneficial to coral physiology but also detrimentally to coral health. We have examined the molecular underpinnings of coral-microbiome interactions from onset and breakdown of symbiosis not only with the algae but also with other microbial partners (i.e. the coral holobiont). Our data suggest that the elaborate interactions among holobiont members directly affect developmental and physiological processes in the animal host as well as overall holobiont function. These observations can now be evaluated under the light of a rapidly changing environment to assess the ecological and evolutionary consequences of global climate change in coral reef ecosystems. I will discuss current findings, ongoing experiments, and future directions of our research.