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Proc Biol Sci. 2012 Jun 22;279(1737):2448-56. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2011.2621. Epub 2012 Feb 15.

Hosts of the Plio-Pleistocene past reflect modern-day coral vulnerability.

Author information

1
Department of Biological Sciences, Florida Institute of Technology, Melbourne, FL 32901, USA. rvw@fit.edu

Abstract

The risk of global extinction of reef-building coral species is increasing. We evaluated extinction risk using a biological trait-based resiliency index that was compared with Caribbean extinction during the Plio-Pleistocene, and with extinction risk determined by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Through the Plio-Pleistocene, the Caribbean supported more diverse coral assemblages than today and shared considerable overlap with contemporary Indo-Pacific reefs. A clear association was found between extant Plio-Pleistocene coral genera and our positive resilience scores. Regional extinction in the past and vulnerability in the present suggests that Pocillopora, Stylophora and foliose Pavona are among the most susceptible taxa to local and regional isolation. These same taxa were among the most abundant corals in the Caribbean Pliocene. Therefore, a widespread distribution did not equate with immunity to regional extinction. The strong relationship between past and present vulnerability suggests that regional extinction events are trait-based and not merely random episodes. We found several inconsistencies between our data and the IUCN scores, which suggest a need to critically re-examine what constitutes coral vulnerability.

PMID:
22337694
PMCID:
PMC3350676
DOI:
10.1098/rspb.2011.2621
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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