NEW STUDY SHOWS GENETIC DIVERSITY OF CORAL COULD EXTEND OUR CHANCE TO SAVE THE GREAT BARRIER REEF
A study published in PLOS Genetics recently discovered that there may be an extra 50 years for us to save the corals of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Researchers from the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Melbourne, and the Australian Institute of Marine Science have found that corals in the Great Barrier Reef have enough genetic diversity to survive rising ocean temperatures for another century, double the previous estimate.
The scientists obtained their results through a mix of genetic sampling and computer simulations, focusing on the staghorn coral Acropora millepora, a significant species in building the Great Barrier Reef. Corals within this species have been found to be more heat resistant than others. When the coral colonies reproduce, they release millions of larvae that float on ocean currents before settling in a new location. As waters warm, the more heatresistant larvae survive, improving the resilience of the colonies they join. This could be the process that would buy corals another half century.
This genetic variation is like fuel for natural selection. If there’s enough variation, evolution can be quick, as all it needs is to reshuffle the existing variants between populations. The challenge is when the genetic variation is exhausted, this process would not be able to take place, leading to an unclear future.
Back-to-back bleaching events have affected twothirds of the Great Barrier Reef