Morphological and genetic mechanisms underlying the plasticity of the coral Porites astreoides across depths in Bermuda

Federica Scucchia, Kevin Wong, Paul Zaslansky, Hollie M. Putnam, Gretchen Goodbody-Gringley, Tali Mass

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The widespread decline of shallow-water coral reefs has fueled interest in assessing whether mesophotic reefs can act as refugia replenishing deteriorated shallower reefs through larval exchange. Here we explore the morphological and molecular basis facilitating survival of planulae and adults of the coral Porites astreoides (Lamarck, 1816; Hexacorallia: Poritidae) along the vertical depth gradient in Bermuda. We found differences in micro-skeletal features such as bigger calyxes and coarser surface of the skeletal spines in shallow corals. Yet, tomographic reconstructions reveal an analogous mineral distribution between shallow and mesophotic adults, pointing to similar skeleton growth dynamics. Our study reveals patterns of host genetic connectivity and minimal symbiont depth-zonation across a broader depth range than previously known for this species in Bermuda. Transcriptional variations across life stages showed different regulation of metabolism and stress response functions, unraveling molecular responses to environmental conditions at different depths. Overall, these findings increase our understanding of coral acclimatory capability across broad vertical gradients, ultimately allowing better evaluation of the refugia potential of mesophotic reefs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number108036
JournalJournal of Structural Biology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Elsevier Inc.


  • Climate refugia
  • Coral reef
  • Mesophotic
  • RNA-Seq
  • SEM
  • X-ray micro-CT

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Structural Biology


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