The role and risks of selective adaptation in extreme coral habitats

Federica Scucchia, Paul Zaslansky, Chloë Boote, Annabelle Doheny, Tali Mass, Emma F. Camp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The alarming rate of climate change demands new management strategies to protect coral reefs. Environments such as mangrove lagoons, characterized by extreme variations in multiple abiotic factors, are viewed as potential sources of stress-tolerant corals for strategies such as assisted evolution and coral propagation. However, biological trade-offs for adaptation to such extremes are poorly known. Here, we investigate the reef-building coral Porites lutea thriving in both mangrove and reef sites and show that stress-tolerance comes with compromises in genetic and energetic mechanisms and skeletal characteristics. We observe reduced genetic diversity and gene expression variability in mangrove corals, a disadvantage under future harsher selective pressure. We find reduced density, thickness and higher porosity in coral skeletons from mangroves, symptoms of metabolic energy redirection to stress response functions. These findings demonstrate the need for caution when utilizing stress-tolerant corals in human interventions, as current survival in extremes may compromise future competitive fitness.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4475
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - 28 Jul 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s).

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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