Genomic signatures in the coral holobiont reveal host adaptations driven by Holocene climate change and reef specific symbionts

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Science Advances  27 Nov 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 48, eabc6318
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abc6318


Genetic signatures caused by demographic and adaptive processes during past climatic shifts can inform predictions of species’ responses to anthropogenic climate change. To identify these signatures in Acropora tenuis, a reef-building coral threatened by global warming, we first assembled the genome from long reads and then used shallow whole-genome resequencing of 150 colonies from the central inshore Great Barrier Reef to inform population genomic analyses. We identify population structure in the host that reflects a Pleistocene split, whereas photosymbiont differences between reefs most likely reflect contemporary (Holocene) conditions. Signatures of selection in the host were associated with genes linked to diverse processes including osmotic regulation, skeletal development, and the establishment and maintenance of symbiosis. Our results suggest that adaptation to post-glacial climate change in A. tenuis has involved selection on many genes, while differences in symbiont specificity between reefs appear to be unrelated to host population structure.

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