The genomics of recovery from coral bleaching

Luke Thomas, Stephen R. Palumbi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


Ecological damage from periodic environmental extremes is often repaired in resilient ecosystems, but the rate of return to a non-damaged state is critical. Measures of recovery of communities include biomass, productivity and diversity, while measures of recovery of individuals tend to focus on physiological conditions and the return to normal metabolic functioning. Transcriptomics offers a window into the entire physiology of the organism under stress and can represent a holistic view of organismal recovery. In this study, we track the recovery of seven colonies of Acropora hyacinthus following a natural bleaching event. We identified a large environmental stress response in the field that involved approximately 20% of the host transcriptome. The transcriptome remained largely perturbed for at least six months after temperatures had cooled and four months after symbiont populations had recovered. Moreover, a small set of genes did not recover to previous expression levels even 12 months after the event, about the time that normal growth rates resumed. This study is among the first to incorporate transcriptomics into a longitudinal dataset of recovery from environmental stress. The data demonstrate large and lasting effects on coral physiology long after environmental conditions return to normal and symbiont populations recover.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20171790
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1865
Publication statusPublished - 25 Oct 2017
Externally publishedYes


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