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Comparative study of anemones from distinct thermal habitats: Highlighting the impact of geographic isolation in promoting evolution of thermal resistant genotypes

Project Description

Acquisition of phototrophic endosymbionts constitutes a key ecological innovation in the evolution of corals, permitting these animals to flourish in oligotrophic waters. Due to recent global environmental changes the coral reefs are declining worldwide, associated with loss of endosymbiotic relations known as coral bleaching [1]. Corals have different thermal tolerances related to their local environmental conditions [2], while anemones like Anemonia viridis and Aiptasia mutabilis have a broad geographical distribution with extremely different temperature conditions. Anemones in the Mediterranean Sea (27°C) are known for enhanced thermal tolerance when compared to counterparts from mild temperature habitats like coastal regions of the United Kingdom (15°C - 20°C). Phenotypic plasticity and genotype selection by environment interactions are key elements in defining the survival success of a species in broad ecological niches. These anemones possibility evolved with novel adaptations enabling survival in higher stress environments and these adaptations support for evolution of thermal resistant genotypes. We aim to understand the genetic factors that underlie adaptations of anemone strains to thermal stress conditions by comparison of anemones from geographically distinct locations with different thermal tolerance. This study will enable us to understand the influence of environmental conditions on genotype.

Funding Notes

You can apply for fully-funded studentships (stipend and fees) from INSPIRE if you:
Are a UK or EU national.
Have no restrictions on how long you can stay in the UK.
Have been 'ordinarily resident' in the UK for 3 years prior to the start of the project.

Please click View Website for more information on eligibility and how to apply


[1] Pandolfi JM. et al., (2011) Projecting Coral Reef Futures Under Global Warming and Ocean Acidification. Science. 333(6041):418-22. doi: 10.1126/science.1204794.
[2] Bellantuono AJ. et al., (2012) Resistance to thermal stress in corals without changes in symbiont composition. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 279(1731):1100-7. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2011.1780.
[3] Sampayo EM. et al., (2016) Coral symbioses under prolonged environmental change: living near tolerance range limits. Scientific reports. 6:36271. doi: 10.1038/srep36271.

How good is research at University of Southampton in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 68.62

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