The role of hybridization in the evolution of reef corals

Willis, Bette L., van Oppen, Madeleine J.H., Miller, David J., Vollmer, Steve V., and Ayre, David J. (2006) The role of hybridization in the evolution of reef corals. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics, 37. pp. 489-517.

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The importance of hybridization in the evolution of plant species is widely accepted, but its contributions to animal species evolution remain less recognized. Here we review evidence that hybridization has contributed to the evolution of reef corals, a group underpinning the coral reef ecosystem. Increasingly threatened by human and climate-related impacts, there is need to understand the evolutionary processes that have given rise to their diversity and contribute to their resilience. Reticulate evolutionary pathways among the ecologically prominent, mass-spawning genus Acropora suggest that hybridization, although rare on ecological timescales, has been instrumental in their diversification on evolutionary timescales. Evidence that coral hybrids colonize marginal habitats distinct from those of parental species’ and that hybridization may be more frequent at peripheral boundaries of species’ ranges supports a role for hybridization in range expansion and adaptation to changing environments. We conclude that outcomes of hybridization are significant for the future resilience of reef corals and warrant inclusion in conservation strategies.

Item ID: 1514
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1545-2069
Keywords: Acropora, hybrid fitness, introgression, reticulate evolution, sperm choice crosses
Date Deposited: 31 May 2007
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology) @ 100%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9605 Ecosystem Assessment and Management > 960508 Ecosystem Assessment and Management of Mining Environments @ 100%
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