Corals survived massive Caribbean climate change – likely to do so again

Corals evolved during the Cambrian era when atmospheric CO2 levels were at 6,000-7,000 ppm, around 4,000 percent or 20 times higher than today’s “CO2-starved” environment of 400 ppm. Temps were also 10 times higher then today…

It’s no wonder corals have survived millions of years of dramatic and “massive” climate change.

Watts Up With That?

From the SMITHSONIAN TROPICAL RESEARCH INSTITUTE

Half of all coral species in the Caribbean went extinct between 1 and 2 million years ago, probably due to drastic environmental changes. Which ones survived? Scientists working at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) think one group of survivors, corals in the genus Orbicella, will continue to adapt to future climate changes because of their high genetic diversity.

Orbicella, a genus of reef-building corals, may be able to survive future climate change. CREDIT Monica Medina, NMNH Orbicella, a genus of reef-building corals, may be able to survive future climate change. CREDIT Monica Medina, NMNH

“Having a lot of genetic variants is like buying a lot of lottery tickets,” said Carlos Prada, lead author of the study and Earl S. Tupper Post-doctoral Fellow at STRI. “We discovered that even small numbers of individuals in three different species of the reef-building coral genus Orbicella have quite a bit of genetic variation, and therefore, are likely to adapt to big changes in their…

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