Restricted gene flow and local adaptation highlight the vulnerability of high-latitude reefs to rapid environmental change

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Abstract

Global climate change poses a serious threat to the future health of coral reef ecosystems. This calls for management strategies that are focused on maximizing the evolutionary potential of coral reefs. Fundamental to this is an accurate understanding of the spatial genetic structure in dominant reef-building coral species. In this study, we apply a genotyping-by-sequencing approach to investigate genome-wide patterns of genetic diversity, gene flow, and local adaptation in a reef-building coral, Pocillopora damicornis, across 10 degrees of latitude and a transition from temperate to tropical waters. We identified strong patterns of differentiation and reduced genetic diversity in high-latitude populations. In addition, genome-wide scans for selection identified a number of outlier loci putatively under directional selection with homology to proteins previously known to be involved in heat tolerance in corals and associated with processes such as photoprotection, protein degradation, and immunity. This study provides genomic evidence for both restricted gene flow and local adaptation in a widely distributed coral species, and highlights the potential vulnerability of leading-edge populations to rapid environmental change as they are locally adapted, reproductively isolated, and have reduced levels of genetic diversity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2197-2205
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Volume23
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2017

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Reefs
local adaptation
gene flow
coral
environmental change
vulnerability
reef
Genes
coral reef
genome
photoprotection
protein
immunity
outlier
homology
Climate change
Ecosystems
genetic structure
global climate
genomics

Cite this

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title = "Restricted gene flow and local adaptation highlight the vulnerability of high-latitude reefs to rapid environmental change",
abstract = "Global climate change poses a serious threat to the future health of coral reef ecosystems. This calls for management strategies that are focused on maximizing the evolutionary potential of coral reefs. Fundamental to this is an accurate understanding of the spatial genetic structure in dominant reef-building coral species. In this study, we apply a genotyping-by-sequencing approach to investigate genome-wide patterns of genetic diversity, gene flow, and local adaptation in a reef-building coral, Pocillopora damicornis, across 10 degrees of latitude and a transition from temperate to tropical waters. We identified strong patterns of differentiation and reduced genetic diversity in high-latitude populations. In addition, genome-wide scans for selection identified a number of outlier loci putatively under directional selection with homology to proteins previously known to be involved in heat tolerance in corals and associated with processes such as photoprotection, protein degradation, and immunity. This study provides genomic evidence for both restricted gene flow and local adaptation in a widely distributed coral species, and highlights the potential vulnerability of leading-edge populations to rapid environmental change as they are locally adapted, reproductively isolated, and have reduced levels of genetic diversity.",
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author = "Luke Thomas and Kennington, {W. Jason} and Richard Evans and Kendrick, {Gary A.} and Michael Stat",
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T1 - Restricted gene flow and local adaptation highlight the vulnerability of high-latitude reefs to rapid environmental change

AU - Thomas, Luke

AU - Kennington, W. Jason

AU - Evans, Richard

AU - Kendrick, Gary A.

AU - Stat, Michael

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N2 - Global climate change poses a serious threat to the future health of coral reef ecosystems. This calls for management strategies that are focused on maximizing the evolutionary potential of coral reefs. Fundamental to this is an accurate understanding of the spatial genetic structure in dominant reef-building coral species. In this study, we apply a genotyping-by-sequencing approach to investigate genome-wide patterns of genetic diversity, gene flow, and local adaptation in a reef-building coral, Pocillopora damicornis, across 10 degrees of latitude and a transition from temperate to tropical waters. We identified strong patterns of differentiation and reduced genetic diversity in high-latitude populations. In addition, genome-wide scans for selection identified a number of outlier loci putatively under directional selection with homology to proteins previously known to be involved in heat tolerance in corals and associated with processes such as photoprotection, protein degradation, and immunity. This study provides genomic evidence for both restricted gene flow and local adaptation in a widely distributed coral species, and highlights the potential vulnerability of leading-edge populations to rapid environmental change as they are locally adapted, reproductively isolated, and have reduced levels of genetic diversity.

AB - Global climate change poses a serious threat to the future health of coral reef ecosystems. This calls for management strategies that are focused on maximizing the evolutionary potential of coral reefs. Fundamental to this is an accurate understanding of the spatial genetic structure in dominant reef-building coral species. In this study, we apply a genotyping-by-sequencing approach to investigate genome-wide patterns of genetic diversity, gene flow, and local adaptation in a reef-building coral, Pocillopora damicornis, across 10 degrees of latitude and a transition from temperate to tropical waters. We identified strong patterns of differentiation and reduced genetic diversity in high-latitude populations. In addition, genome-wide scans for selection identified a number of outlier loci putatively under directional selection with homology to proteins previously known to be involved in heat tolerance in corals and associated with processes such as photoprotection, protein degradation, and immunity. This study provides genomic evidence for both restricted gene flow and local adaptation in a widely distributed coral species, and highlights the potential vulnerability of leading-edge populations to rapid environmental change as they are locally adapted, reproductively isolated, and have reduced levels of genetic diversity.

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