Empty niches after extinctions increase population sizes of modern corals

Prada, Carlos, Hanna, Bishoy, Budd, Ann F., Woodley, Cheryl M., Schmutz, Jeremy, Grimwood, Jane, Iglesias-Prieto, Roberto, Pandolfi, John M., Levitan, Don, Johnson, Kenneth G., Knowlton, Nancy, Kitano, Hiroaki, DeGiorgio, Michae and Medina, Monica (2016) Empty niches after extinctions increase population sizes of modern corals. Current Biology, 26 23: 3190-3194. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2016.09.039


Author Prada, Carlos
Hanna, Bishoy
Budd, Ann F.
Woodley, Cheryl M.
Schmutz, Jeremy
Grimwood, Jane
Iglesias-Prieto, Roberto
Pandolfi, John M.
Levitan, Don
Johnson, Kenneth G.
Knowlton, Nancy
Kitano, Hiroaki
DeGiorgio, Michae
Medina, Monica
Title Empty niches after extinctions increase population sizes of modern corals
Journal name Current Biology   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0960-9822
1879-0445
Publication date 2016-12-05
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1016/j.cub.2016.09.039
Open Access Status Not yet assessed
Volume 26
Issue 23
Start page 3190
End page 3194
Total pages 5
Place of publication Cambridge, MA, United States
Publisher Cell Press
Language eng
Formatted abstract
Large environmental fluctuations often cause mass extinctions, extirpating species and transforming communities [1, 2]. While the effects on community structure are evident in the fossil record, demographic consequences for populations of individual species are harder to evaluate because fossils reveal relative, but not absolute, abundances. However, genomic analyses of living species that have survived a mass extinction event offer the potential for understanding the demographic effects of such environmental fluctuations on extant species. Here, we show how environmental variation since the Pliocene has shaped demographic changes in extant corals of the genus Orbicella, major extant reef builders in the Caribbean that today are endangered. We use genomic approaches to estimate previously unknown current and past population sizes over the last 3 million years. Populations of all three Orbicella declined around 2–1 million years ago, coincident with the extinction of at least 50% of Caribbean coral species. The estimated changes in population size are consistent across the three species despite their ecological differences. Subsequently, two shallow-water specialists expanded their population sizes at least 2-fold, over a time that overlaps with the disappearance of their sister competitor species O. nancyi (the organ-pipe Orbicella). Our study suggests that populations of Orbicella species are capable of rebounding from reductions in population size under suitable conditions and that the effective population size of modern corals provides rich standing genetic variation for corals to adapt to climate change. For conservation genetics, our study suggests the need to evaluate genetic variation under appropriate demographic models.
Keyword Coral reefs
Empty niche
ESA threatened
Genome
Niche partitioning
Pleistocene
Pliocene
Population expansion
Sea level change
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
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School of Biological Sciences Publications
 
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