New study shows shallow water corals evolved from deep sea ancestors

Jun 18, 2008

New research shows that the second most diverse group of hard corals first evolved in the deep sea, and not in shallow waters. Stylasterids, or lace corals, diversified in deep waters before launching at least three successful invasions of shallow water tropical habitats in the past 40 million years. This finding provides the first strong evidence that a group of deep-sea animals invaded and diversified in shallow waters.

"When we look at the DNA and fossils of these animals, we can trace how these transitions from deep water to shallow habitats have popped up in different parts of the family at different points in time," says Alberto Lindner, a coral researcher at the University of São Paulo, Brazil.

"We also see this story unfold in which the corals are building skeletal defenses, possibly in a long-running arms-race with their predators. Together, it shows us how wrong it is to think of deep-sea ecosystems as being isolated and static."

Lindner and co-authors Stephen Cairns and Cliff Cunningham will publish these new findings in the June 18 issue of the journal PLoS ONE. This article follows a presentation by Lindner at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Annual Meeting in Boston, MA.

Although deep-sea research is often difficult and expensive, Lindner and his colleagues hope their work will further inspire scientific exploration and broad evolutionary studies in the oceans. "The deep sea and the shallow-water tropics are the most diverse environments in the oceans, but how deep and shallow-water species have built these different marine habitats is still poorly understood. Our study shows that integrating deep-sea and shallow-water species in evolutionary studies is key to understanding the evolution of life in the oceans."

Citation: Lindner A, Cairns SD, Cunningham CW (2008) From Offshore to Onshore: Multiple Origins of Shallow-Water Corals from Deep-Sea Ancestors. PLoS ONE 3(6): e2429. www.plosone.org/doi/pone.00024… journal.pone.0002429

Source: Public Library of Science

Explore further: Brother of Hibiscus is found alive and well on Maui

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

End dawns for Europe's space cargo delivery role

7 hours ago

Europe will close an important chapter in its space flight history Tuesday, launching the fifth and final robot ship it had pledged for lifeline deliveries to the International Space Station.

Startup offers elderly an Internet key to family links

8 hours ago

Two grandmothers mystified by computer tablets have inspired a French-Romanian startup to develop an application and service to help the elderly stay in touch with their relatives through the Internet.

As numbers of gray seals rise, so do conflicts

Jul 20, 2014

(AP)—Decades after gray seals were all but wiped out in New England waters, the population has rebounded so much that some frustrated residents are calling for a controlled hunt.

Recommended for you

Molecular gate that could keep cancer cells locked up

7 hours ago

In a study published today in Genes & Development, Dr Christian Speck from the MRC Clinical Sciences Centre's DNA Replication group, in collaboration with Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), New York, ...

The 'memory' of starvation is in your genes

10 hours ago

During the winter of 1944, the Nazis blocked food supplies to the western Netherlands, creating a period of widespread famine and devastation. The impact of starvation on expectant mothers produced one of the first known ...

User comments : 0