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Out of Their Depth? Isolated Deep Populations of the Cosmopolitan Coral Desmophyllum dianthus may be Highly Vulnerable to Environmental Change


Miller, KJ and Rowden, AA and Williams, A and Haussermann, V, Out of Their Depth? Isolated Deep Populations of the Cosmopolitan Coral Desmophyllum dianthus may be Highly Vulnerable to Environmental Change, PLoS ONE, 6, (5) pp. e19004. ISSN 1932-6203 (2011) [Refereed Article]


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Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic (CC BY 2.5)

DOI: doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0019004


Deep sea scleractinian corals will be particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, facing loss of up to 70% of their habitat as the Aragonite Saturation Horizon (below which corals are unable to form calcium carbonate skeletons) rises. Persistence of deep sea scleractinian corals will therefore rely on the ability of larvae to disperse to, and colonise, suitable shallow-water habitat. We used DNA sequence data of the internal transcribed spacer (ITS), the mitochondrial ribosomal subunit (16S) and mitochondrial control region (MtC) to determine levels of gene flow both within and among populations of the deep sea coral Desmophyllum dianthus in SE Australia, New Zealand and Chile to assess the ability of corals to disperse into different regions and habitats. We found significant genetic subdivision among the three widely separated geographic regions consistent with isolation and limited contemporary gene flow. Furthermore, corals from different depth strata (shallow ,600 m, mid 1000–1500 m, deep .1500 m) even on the same or nearby seamounts were strongly differentiated, indicating limited vertical larval dispersal. Genetic differentiation with depth is consistent with the stratification of the Subantarctic Mode Water, Antarctic Intermediate Water, the Circumpolar Deep and North Pacific Deep Waters in the Southern Ocean, and we propose that coral larvae will be retained within, and rarely migrate among, these water masses. The apparent absence of vertical larval dispersal suggests deep populations of D. dianthus are unlikely to colonise shallow water as the aragonite saturation horizon rises and deep waters become uninhabitable. Similarly, assumptions that deep populations will act as refuges for shallow populations that are impacted by activities such as fishing or mining are also unlikely to hold true. Clearly future environmental management strategies must consider both regional and depth-related isolation of deep-sea coral populations.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Ecology
Research Field:Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology)
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Marine systems and management
Objective Field:Marine biodiversity
UTAS Author:Miller, KJ (Dr Karen Miller)
ID Code:76061
Year Published:2011
Web of Science® Times Cited:32
Deposited By:IMAS Research and Education Centre
Deposited On:2012-02-26
Last Modified:2012-06-21
Downloads:385 View Download Statistics

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