Novel genetic diversity through somatic mutations: fuel for adaptation of reef corals?

Van Oppen, Madeleine J.H., Souter, Petra, Howells, Emily J., Heyward, Andrew, and Berkelmans, Ray (2011) Novel genetic diversity through somatic mutations: fuel for adaptation of reef corals? Diversity, 3 (3). pp. 405-423.

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Adaptation of reef corals to climate change is an issue of much debate, and often viewed as too slow a process to be of relevance over decadal time scales. This notion is based on the long sexual generation times typical for some coral species. However, the importance of somatic mutations during asexual reproduction and growth on evolution and adaptation (i.e., cell lineage selection) is rarely considered. Here we review the existing literature on cell lineage selection and show that the scope for somatic mutations to arise in the coral animal and associated Symbiodinium is large. For example, we estimate that ~100 million somatic mutations can arise within a branching Acropora coral colony of average size. Similarly, the large population sizes and rapid turn-over times of in hospite Symbiodinium likely result in considerable numbers of somatic mutations. While the fate of new mutations depends on many factors, including ploidy level and force and direction of selection, we argue that they likely play a key role in the evolution of reef corals.

Item ID: 21036
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1424-2818
Keywords: coral; Symbiodinium; adaptation; somatic mutations; cell lineage selection; climate change
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© 2011 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution license (

Date Deposited: 19 Mar 2012 06:16
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology) @ 100%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences @ 100%
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