Phenotypic plasticity and thermal acclimatization of corals
Corals are suffering heavy losses worldwide, mainly as a result of climate change. Extreme thermal events increasing in frequency are pushing these fragile organisms to their physiological limits. Their survival depends on their capacity to express phenotypes that fit their local environmental conditions. To do so, some corals might display high phenotypic plasticity while others may be broadly tolerant over a large range of conditions. The drivers of such strategies, and the mechanisms involved, genetic or non-genetic, remain unresolved. Moreover, understanding the contribution of plasticity to thermal acclimatization or adaptation is of paramount importance to predict future reef communities in a context of climate change.
The objectives of our research are to characterize the seasonality of thermal performance of common scleractinian coral species from the shallow or upper mesophotic reef, and investigate the roles of coral associated microbes present in the tissue and skeleton as potential drivers to their performance. Studying such system over consecutive years will help better understand (1) the mechanisms underpinning phenotypic plasticity and thermal acclimatization, and (2) the impact of environmental history on the overall performance of corals. Therefore, our research could assist in predicting the response of reefs to future environmental conditions.