Coral reefs are diverse marine ecosystems. Overfishing, pollution and the effects of climate change including, ocean acidification (as a result of rising carbon dioxide levels) are destroying these precious environments. Reefs are being lost at an alarming rate and understanding whether/how coral can adapt to these changes could provide clues for aiding their preservation.
In this month’s issue of Genome Biology, Mikhail Matz and colleagues from the University of Texas present a high-resolution genetic linkage map of the reef-building coral Acropora millepora, the first for any coral or any non-bilaterian animal, and the most basal metazoan genetic linkage map to date. This linkage map will enable the identification of the quantitative trait loci (QTLs) associated with adaptation-relevant physiological traits, as well as facilitating population genomics studies and coral genome assembly.
As well as facilitating future studies into coral genomics, biology and ecology, the linkage map itself reveals insights into coral biology. The consensus genetic linkage map contains more than 400 markers distributed over 14 linkage groups. Matz and colleagues also produced separate male and female linkage maps, and found that the female map was 1.3x longer than that of the male, suggesting that this coral may possess sex-specific differences in recombination. The coral map also revealed syntenic regions with other metazoan genomes, allowing the authors to build a picture of the architecture of the ancestral metazoan genome.
This new genetic linkage map provides an important resource for future studies on coral genome structure and enhances our understanding of metazoan genome evolution
Clare Hinkley, Senior Editor, Genome Biology