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Award Abstract #0825979

Predicting the effects of ocean warming on larval dispersal by measuring adaptive potential of corals

Division Of Ocean Sciences
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Initial Amendment Date: August 26, 2008
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Latest Amendment Date: August 26, 2008
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Award Number: 0825979
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Award Instrument: Standard Grant
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Program Manager: David L. Garrison
OCE Division Of Ocean Sciences
GEO Directorate For Geosciences
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Start Date: September 1, 2008
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End Date: August 31, 2013 (Estimated)
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Awarded Amount to Date: $474,000.00
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Investigator(s): Iliana Baums baums@psu.edu (Principal Investigator)
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Sponsor: Pennsylvania State Univ University Park
110 Technology Center Building
UNIVERSITY PARK, PA 16802-7000 (814)865-1372
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Program Reference Code(s): 0000, 9117, 9169, EGCH, OTHR
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Program Element Code(s): 1650, 1693


Dispersal of larvae via ocean currents is a common strategy among sessile marine organisms and so spatially discontinuous populations maintain a shared gene pool. Long-lived reef building corals employ such strategies to connect their shallow-water populations across stretches of inhospitable open-ocean. Increasing seawater temperatures are predicted to quicken larval development so that average dispersal distances are expected to decrease. At the same time, species currently limited by minimum annual seawater temperatures may extend their ranges pole ward in the coming years.

The objectives of this project are to measure the effect of high and low seawater temperatures on early life stages and ultimately predict changes in connectivity patterns as a result of global warming. It is expected that individuals and populations within species differ in their abilities to respond to changing environmental conditions. Adaptive trait variation among individuals and populations in the reef-building coral Acropora palmata will be measured by a combination of gene expression experiments and population genomics. Symbiont-free larvae obtained from controlled crosses from each of the two previously identified Caribbean A. palmata populations (Florida and Puerto Rico) will be exposed to a range of seawater temperatures and their development patterns documented. The larval pools will be interrogated by a 40,000 probe microarray developed with next generation sequencing. It is hypothesized that larvae from both populations show a similar response to increased sea-surface temperatures but that Florida larvae are better able to survive cold shocks. The microarray data will thus yield candidate genes for temperature adaptation in corals. These data will for the first time provide estimates of genome-wide adaptive trait variance in corals that can be incorporated into real-time dispersal models to predict changes in connectivity patterns as a result of global warming.

This study will provide the first range wide estimates of adaptation in a coral by developing novel genomic tools for a non-model species. This research will focus on the effects of temperature on dispersal of a reef-building coral, a topic particularly relevant in light of global warming and the sensitivity of corals to warming temperatures. Acropora palmata is particularly worthy of attention because it is one of two coral species currently listed as threatened under the US Endangered Species Act. By identifying signatures of selection over the range of the species, conservation efforts can prioritize source populations for restoration material based on adaptive similarity. The transcriptome data generated here will be invaluable to the wider biological community and benefit society at large.

This study includes outreach missions to educate and train the public and public institutions. Through continuing a series of workshops held since 2005 by SECORE (SExual COral REproduction), the proposed project will help build a cooperative international network of public aquariums and research institutions to establish coral breeding programs for ex situ and field populations of A. palmata. Graduate and undergraduate students are in integral part of this project and will receive training in field and laboratory work and lecture courses.


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Boulay JN, Cortés J, Nivia-Ruiz J, Baums IB. "Genotypic diversity of the reef-building coral Porites lobata (Dana, 1846) (Scleractinia: Poritidae) at Cocos Island National Park, Costa Rica.," Revista Biologia Tropical, v.60, 2012, p. 279.

Baums, I. B., Devlin-Durante, M. K., 1Polato, N. R., Xu, D., Giri, S., Altman, N. S., Ruiz, D., Parkinson, J. E., Boulay, J. N.. "Genotypic variation influences reproductive success and thermal stress tolerance in the reef building coral, Acropora palmata.," Coral Reefs, v.32, 2013, p. 703.

Glynn PW, Colley SB, Maté JL, Baums IB, Feingold JS, Cortés J, Guzmán HM, Afflerbach JC, Brandtneris VW, Ault JS. "Reef coral reproduction in the equatorial eastern Pacific: Costa Rica, Panamá, and the Galápagos Islands (Ecuador). VII. Siderastreidae, Psammocora stellata and Psammocora profundacella.," Marine Biology, v.159, 2012, p. 1917.

Pinzón J, Reyes-Bonilla H, Baums I, LaJeunesse T. "Contrasting clonal structure among Pocillopora (Scleractinia) communities at two environmentally distinct sites in the Gulf of California," Coral Reefs, v.3, 2012, p. 765. 

Baums IB, Devlin-Durante MK, Polato NR, Xu D, Giri S, Altman NS, Ruiz D, Parkinson JE, Boulay JN. "Genotypic variation influences reproductive success and thermal stress tolerance in the reef building coral, Acropora palmata.," Coral Reefs, v.32, 2013, p. 703. 

Foster NL, Paris CB, Kool JT, Baums IB, Stevens JR, Sanchez JA, Bastidas C, Agudelo C, Bush P, Day O, Ferrari R, Gonzalez P, Gore S, Guppy R, McCartney M, McCoy C, Mendes JM, Srinivasan A, Steiner SCC, Vermeij MJA, Weil E, Mumby PJ. "Connectivity of Caribbean coral populations: complementary insights from empirical and modelled gene flow," Molecular Ecology, v.21, 2012, p. 1143. 

Polato NR, Altman NS, Baums IB. "Variation in the transcriptional response of threatened coral larvae to elevated temperatures.," Molecular Ecology, v.22, 2013, p. 1366. 

Polato NR, Altman NS, Baums IB. "Variation in the transcriptional response of threatened coral larvae to elevated temperatures," Molecular Ecology, v.2013, 2013, p. 1366. 

17. Hagedorn, M., Carter, V., Martorana, K., Paresa, M. K., Acker, J., Baums, I. B., Borneman, E., Brittsan, M., Byers, M., Henley, M., Laterveer, M., Leong, J.-A., McCarthy, M., Meyers, S., Nelson, B. D., Petersen, D., Tiersch, T., Uribe, R. C., Woods, E. "Preserving and Using Germplasm and Dissociated Embryonic Cells for Conserving Caribbean and Pacific Coral," PLoS ONE, v.7, 2012, p. e33354. 

Johnston, L., Miller, M. W., Baums, I. B.. "Assessment of Host-Associated Genetic Differentiation among Phenotypically Divergent Populations of a Coral-Eating Gastropod across the Caribbean," PLoS ONE, v.7, 2012, p. e47630. 

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Griffin S, Spathias H, Moore DM, Baums IB, Griffin BA. "Scaling up Acropora nurseries in the Caribbean and improving techniques and improving techniques. Session 20A Restoration of Coral Reefs", 09/01/2011-08/31/2012, , Yellowlees D, Hughes TP"Proceedings of the 12th International Coral Reef Symposium",  2012, "James Cook University, Townsville, Australia".


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