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Levels of immunity parameters underpin bleaching and disease susceptibility of reef corals

Lookup NU author(s): Caroline Palmer, Professor John BythellORCiD


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Immunity is a key life history trait that may explain hierarchies in the susceptibility of corals to disease and thermal bleaching, two of the greatest current threats to coral health and the persistence of tropical reefs. Despite their ongoing and rapid global decline, there have been few investigations into the immunity mechanisms of reef-building corals. Variables commonly associated with invertebrate immunity, including the presence of melanin, size of melanin-containing granular cells, and phenoloxidase (PO) activity, as well as concentrations of fluorescent proteins (FPs), were investigated in hard (Scleractinia) and soft (Alcyonacea) corals spanning 10 families from the Great Barrier Reef. Detectable levels of these indicators were present in all corals investigated, although relative investment differed among coral taxa. Overall levels of investment were inversely correlated to thermal bleaching and disease susceptibility. In addition, PO activity, melanin-containing granular cell size, and FP concentration were each found to be significant predictors of susceptibility and thus may play key roles in coral immunity. Correlative evidence that taxonomic (family-level) variation in the levels of these constituent immunity parameters underpins susceptibility to both thermal bleaching and disease indicates that baseline immunity underlies the vulnerability of corals to these two threats. This reinforces the necessity of a holistic approach to understanding bleaching and disease in order to accurately determine the resilience of coral reefs.-Palmer, C. V., Bythell, J. C., Willis. B. L. Levels of immunity parameters underpin bleaching and disease susceptibility of reef corals. FASEB J. 24, 1935-1946 (2010).

Publication metadata

Author(s): Palmer CV, Bythell JC, Willis BL

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: FASEB Journal

Year: 2010

Volume: 24

Issue: 6

Pages: 1935-1946

Print publication date: 01/06/2010

ISSN (print): 0892-6638

ISSN (electronic): 1530-6860

Publisher: Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology


DOI: 10.1096/fj.09-152447


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