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Ecological and Evolutionary Considerations Regarding Corals in a Rapidly Changing Environment

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Abstract

Coral reefs have been threatened for ≥35 years, primarily by global warming, disease, and unwanted inter-oceanic species introductions. Here we discuss differences between the evolution of corals and other organisms in the Atlantic vs. the Pacific Oceans through natural selection caused by oceanic cooling in the Atlantic and the resultant differential extinctions. We will also consider the implications of differential Pacific vs. Atlantic adaptations for invasive species and how it makes the former formidable predators and competitors. The effects of climate change and global warming on corals will also be considered, including the poleward movement of our current climatic zones at the expense of the polar and sub-polar zones. We also predict the creation of a new “Hyper-Tropical Zone” in the center of the Equatorial Zone, characterized by mass mortalities of zooxanthellate organisms, causing both local endemic and global pandemic extinctions. The effects of global warming on the coral-zooxanthellar symbiotic relationship examines how zooxanthellae may be the “weak” link in the system, explaining why they are having difficulty keeping up with the pace of global warming. We also consider the possibility of a replacement symbiont arising. In this context, we examine the evolution of coral immunity as it affects the host, symbiont replacement, and disease. Such studies will help us to better understand the evolution of innate and adaptive immune systems, and ultimately better understand vertebrate model systems for human health studies.

Keywords

  • “Hyper-Tropical Zone”
  • Adaptations
  • Adaptive immune system
  • Atlantic Ocean
  • Climate change
  • Climatic zones
  • Competitors
  • Coral immunity
  • Coral reefs
  • Coral-zooxanthellar symbiotic relationship
  • Disease
  • Equatorial zone
  • Evolution
  • Extinctions
  • Global warming
  • Innate immune system
  • Invasive species
  • Mass mortalities
  • Natural selection
  • Oceanic cooling
  • Pacific Ocean
  • Polar and sub-polar zones
  • Predators
  • Species introductions
  • Symbiont replacement
  • Zooxanthellae
  • Zooxanthellate organisms

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  • DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-31305-4_34
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Abbreviations

CLRs:

C-type lectin receptors

DAMPs:

Danger/damage-associated molecular patterns

DNA:

Deoxyribonucleic acid

DSMs:

DNA sensing molecules

HMGB1:

High-mobility group box 1 proteins

IG:

Immunoglobulin

LRR:

Leucine rich repeat

MBL:

Mannose binding lectins

Mhc:

Major histocompability complex

NLRs:

NOD-like receptors

PAMPs:

Pathogen associated molecular patterns

PRR:

Pattern-recognition receptors

RLRs:

RIG-I-like receptors

TCR:

T-cell receptors

TIRs:

Toll/IL-1 receptors

TLR:

Toll-like receptors

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Sammarco, P.W., Strychar, K.B. (2016). Ecological and Evolutionary Considerations Regarding Corals in a Rapidly Changing Environment. In: Goffredo, S., Dubinsky, Z. (eds) The Cnidaria, Past, Present and Future. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-31305-4_34

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