Tara Pacific

Zanclus cornutum

Although covering only ~0.2% of the ocean’s surface, coral reefs harbour ~25% of ocean biodiversity and provide food to nearly a billion people. Ecological services from coral reefs are essential through fisheries, tourism, coastal protection and are estimated at about 30 billions USD per year. But corals are being stressed and recent estimates indicate that ~20% of reefs have permanently disappeared and about 50% will be threatened by 2050. Coral reefs are often at the forefront of research on climate change, due to bleaching, ocean acidification, and concerns about reef growth processes.

Recent genomic developments have demonstrated the complexity of the coral genome that appears as complex as that for vertebrates. Reef corals further add to this complexity through an obligatory photo-endosymbiosis developed with microalgae. The physiological consequences of the presence of these photosynthetic microalgae (called zooxanthellae), which further add to the complexity of the coral hologenome, and the deep physio-genomic impacts resulting from this symbiosis on both partners, have yet to be fully elucidated. Furthermore, corals are hosts of a still largely unknown world of associated bacteria, viruses and other protists, forming a complex symbiocosm that biologists refer to as ‘holobiont’.

Millepora platyphylla
Porites lonbata

This project entitled, “Genomic complexity of the coral holobiont across biodiversity gradients in the Pacific” is ambitious and seeks to investigate the complex diversity of the coral holobiont within the context of global change. It will serve as the foundation for the new Tara Pacific expedition (2016-2018). It builds upon the experience of previous Tara-Oceans expeditions and will focus on coral reefs throughout the Pacific Ocean, drawing an east-west transect from Panama to Japan and a south-north transect from New Zealand to Japan, and will sample corals throughout roughly 35 island systems with local replicates.

Learn more about Tara Pacific expedition : https://fondationtaraocean.org/expedition/tara-pacific/

Publications

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