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Heat-resistant corals provide clues to climate change survival
Date:1/8/2013

sing questions in coral biology, like which genes might help corals survive extreme heat," said Barshis.

Heat-resistant and heat-sensitive corals had a similar reaction to experimental heat: hundreds of genes "changed expression" or turned on to reduce and repair damage. However, the heat-resistant corals showed an unexpected pattern: 60 heat stress genes were already turned on even before the experiment began. These genes are "frontloaded" by heat resistant corals already turned on and ready to work even before the eat stress began. "It's like already having your driver's license and boarding pass out when you get close to the TSA screener at the airport, rather than starting to fumble through your wallet once you get to the front of the line," Palumbi said.

The findings show that DNA sequencing can offer broad insights into the differences that may allow some organisms to persist longer amid future changes to global climate. "We're going to put a lot of effort into protecting coral reefs, but what happens if we wake up in 30 years and all our efforts are in vain because those corals have succumbed to climate change," Palumbi said.

As with strong corals, finding species most likely to endure climate change "resilience mapping" is the first step toward protecting them, Palumbi said. "The solutions that we're looking for must, at least partially, be out there in the world."


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Contact: Rob Jordan
rob.jordan@stanford.edu
650-721-1881
Stanford University
Source:Eurekalert

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