Brief Communications

Nature 430, 741 (12 August 2004) | doi:10.1038/430741a; Published online 11 August 2004

Coral reefs:  Corals' adaptive response to climate change

Andrew C. Baker1,2, Craig J. Starger3, Tim R. McClanahan1 & Peter W. Glynn4

The long-term response of coral reefs to climate change depends on the ability of reef-building coral symbioses to adapt or acclimatize to warmer temperatures, but there has been no direct evidence that such a response can occur. Here we show that corals containing unusual algal symbionts that are thermally tolerant and commonly associated with high-temperature environments are much more abundant on reefs that have been severely affected by recent climate change. This adaptive shift in symbiont communities indicates that these devastated reefs could be more resistant to future thermal stress, resulting in significantly longer extinction times for surviving corals than had been previously assumed.

  1. Marine Program, Wildlife Conservation Society, Bronx, New York 10460, USA
  2. Center for Environmental Research and Conservation, Columbia University, New York, New York 10027, USA
  3. Department of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology, Columbia University, New York, New York 10027, USA
  4. Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami, Florida 33149, USA

Correspondence to: Andrew C. Baker1,2 Email:


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