Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

Phylogenomics and functional genomics of scleractinian corals

Monica Medina, Ph.D.
University of California

Wednesday, December 7, 2005
Pacific Forum – 3:00 p.m.

Genomic evidence is now widely used to address evolutionary and ecological questions. New genomic data will be presented focusing on two independent, although key questions, in scleractinian coral biology: 1) the evolution of the skeleton, and 2) the establishment of coral-zooxanthallae symbiosis.

Unlike most metazoan groups with mineralized skeletons, Scleractinia appears relatively late in the fossil record, roughly 240 million years ago. This late explosive appearance relative to other calcifying taxa, is seen as evidence in favor of the idea that scleractinians evolved independently from soft-bodied ancestors. In this context, I will discuss new evidence from complete mitochondrial genomes.

Coral-zooxanthallae symbiotic interactions are important in benthic tropical communities. This symbiosis is highly susceptible to changes in environmental factors such as seawater temperature and/or light levels. Preliminary work using microarray gene expression profiling being developed in my laboratory will help shed light on the molecular aspects of the onset of symbiosis.

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