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Mol Ecol. 2017 Aug;26(15):3860-3869. doi: 10.1111/mec.14165. Epub 2017 May 30.

Fire coral clones demonstrate phenotypic plasticity among reef habitats.

Author information

1
PSL Research University, EPHE-UPVD-CNRS, USR 3278 CRIOBE, Université de Perpignan, Perpignan, France.
2
Laboratoire d'Excellence "CORAIL", Perpignan, France.
3
SymbioSeas and Marine Applied Research Center, Wilmington, NC, USA.

Abstract

Clonal populations are often characterized by reduced levels of genotypic diversity, which can translate into lower numbers of functional phenotypes, both of which impede adaptation. Study of partially clonal animals enables examination of the environmental settings under which clonal reproduction is favoured. Here, we gathered genotypic and phenotypic information from 3,651 georeferenced colonies of the fire coral Millepora platyphylla in five habitats with different hydrodynamic regimes in Moorea, French Polynesia. In the upper slope where waves break, most colonies grew as vertical sheets ("sheet tree") making them more vulnerable to fragmentation. Nearly all fire corals in the other habitats are encrusting or massive. The M. platyphylla population is highly clonal (80% of the colonies are clones), while characterized by the highest genotype diversity ever documented for terrestrial or marine populations (1,064 genotypes). The proportion of clones varies greatly among habitats (≥58%-97%) and clones (328 clonal lineages) are distributed perpendicularly from the reef crest, perfectly aligned with wave energy. There are six clonal lineages with clones dispersed in at least two adjacent habitats that strongly demonstrate phenotypic plasticity. Eighty per cent of the colonies in these lineages are "sheet tree" on the upper slope, while 80%-100% are encrusting or massive on the mid slope and back reef. This is a unique example of phenotypic plasticity among reef-building coral clones as corals typically have wave-tolerant growth forms in high-energy reef areas.

KEYWORDS:

clonal dispersal; fragmentation; genotypic diversity; morphology; reproduction; wave energy

PMID:
28475270
DOI:
10.1111/mec.14165
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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