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Trends Ecol Evol. 2009 Jan;24(1):16-20. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2008.09.005. Epub 2008 Nov 18.

Coral bleaching: the role of the host.

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ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University, Townsville, QLD 4811, Australia.


Coral bleaching caused by global warming is one of the major threats to coral reefs. Very recently, research has focused on the possibility of corals switching symbionts as a means of adjusting to accelerating increases in sea surface temperature. Although symbionts are clearly of fundamental importance, many aspects of coral bleaching cannot be readily explained by differences in symbionts among coral species. Here we outline several potential mechanisms by which the host might influence the bleaching response, and conclude that predicting the fate of corals in response to climate change requires both members of the symbiosis to be considered equally.

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