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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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Stylized representation of the phylogeny and morphologies that allowed detection of decreased thermal bleaching with greater polyp integration (coloniality). Photos: (Gary Parr)

Swain TD, Bold EC, Osborn PC, Baird AH, Westneat MW, Backman V, Marcelino LA


Physiological integration of coral colonies is correlated with bleaching resistance

Species-specific differential bleaching observations suggest that physiologically integrated coral colonies may be more susceptible to thermal stress, supporting the hypothesis that chemical communication between polyps impairs resistance to bleaching, while apparently strengthening resistance to injury, predation, and disease. This disparity in stress responses encouraged Swain and colleagues to revisit this long standing precept with expanded information on bleaching response and physiological integration for 88 diverse coral species within a phylogenetic framework. The results indicate significantly reduced bleaching responses among coral species with highly integrated colonies, overturning a widely accepted axiom and reorienting our understanding of the response to thermal stress to be more similar to other types of stressors.


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