Hunt Jones

Understanding the effects of diurnal temperature variability on thermotolerance in cnidarian symbioses

Coral reefs today are under imminent threat, primarily due to rising ocean temperatures under climate change. Thermal stress disrupts the normal functioning of cnidarian-algal symbioses, leading to bleaching events, which are occurring with greater intensity and frequency as mean ocean temperatures continue to rise. However, thermal tolerance of host-symbiont pairings varies greatly among space, time, and phylogeny. Thus, the factors connected to increased tolerance of thermal stress are of great interest to researchers.

The goal of this project is to investigate the role of diurnal temperature variability in increased resistance to thermal stress within cnidarian symbioses, specifically the functioning of cellular host-symbiont metabolic interactions under different temperature regimes. We expect that cooler night time temperatures may provide a temporal refuge that allows for efficient recovery from stress factors such as increased metabolic demands and photodamage experienced during the day. This efficient recovery period may therefore allow for tolerance of greater daytime thermal maxima compared to cnidarians under less variable temperature regimes.