FSU researchers discover how ‘cryptic species’ respond differently to coral bleaching

by Bill Wellock, Florida State University

Certain brightly colored coral species dotting the seafloor may appear indistinguishable to many divers and snorkelers, but Florida State University researchers have found that these genetically diverse marine invertebrates vary in their response to ocean warming, a finding that has implications for the long-term health of coral reefs.

The researchers used molecular genetics to differentiate among corals that look nearly identical and to understand which species best coped with thermal stress. Their research was published in the journal Ecology.

“Being able to recognize the differences among these coral species that cannot be identified in the field — which are known as ‘cryptic species’ — will help us understand new ways for how coral reefs maintain resilience in the face of disturbance,” said Associate Professor of Biological Science Scott Burgess, the paper’s lead author.

The researchers were studying the coral ecosystem at the island of Moorea in French Polynesia when a coral bleaching event struck in 2019.

Read more here: https://news.fsu.edu/news/science-technology/2021/03/16/fsu-researchers-discover-how-cryptic-species-respond-differently-to-coral-bleaching/

Read the Ecology paper: https://esajournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ecy.3324