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LSU professor discovers how new corals species form in the ocean
Date:2/6/2013

onment. Hellberg hopes in future research to investigate the genetic basis of these different morphologies.

In other interesting results, Prada explained how transplanting the shallow coral species to deep water environments, and vice versa, can cause the coral to take on a morphology more like that of its sister species.

"Their morphologies are not super fixed," Prada said. "But they can't change all the way to a different morphology."

Prada observed that while shallow water sea fans can become taller and more spindly when transplanted in deep water environments, they don't seem to be able to make a complete transition to the morphology of the deep water sea fan. This suggests that the two corals, while they likely had a common ancestor, have adapted genetically and biochemically to their respective water depths.

Prada did ocean dives in the Bahamas, Panama, Puerto Rico and Curaao to sample candelabrum coral colonies. Back in the lab, he performed tests on the coral samples' genes to determine how shallow and deep corals become genetically different.

"Normally, organisms are differentiated by geography," Prada said. "But these corals are differentiated by depth."

Prada and Hellberg's research provides new insights into how new species form in the ocean, a topic of relatively limited research as opposed to speciation of terrestrial organisms.


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Contact: Ashley Berthelot
aberth4@lsu.edu
225-578-3870
Louisiana State University
Source:Eurekalert

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