Red fluorescence in coral larvae is associated with a diapause-like state. Academic Article uri icon


  • Effective dispersal across environmental gradients is the key to species resilience to environmental perturbation, including climate change. Coral reefs are among the most sensitive ecosystems to global warming, but factors predicting coral dispersal potential remain unknown. In a reef-building coral Acropora millepora, larval fluorescence emerged as a possible indicator of dispersal potential since it correlates with responsiveness to a settlement cue. Here, we show that gene expression in red fluorescent larvae of A.millepora is correlated with diapause-like characteristics highly likely to be associated with extended dispersal. We compared gene expression among three larval fluorescent morphs under three coloured light treatments. While colour morphs did not differ in their gene expression responses to light colour, red larvae demonstrated gene expression signatures of cell cycle arrest and decreased transcription accompanied by elevated ribosome production and heightened defenses against oxidative stress. A meta-analysis revealed that this profile was highly similar to the signatures of elevated thermal tolerance in the same coral species, and moreover, functionally resembled diapause states in an insect and a nematode. Our results support a connection between red fluorescence and long-range dispersal, which offers a new perspective on the molecular underpinnings of coral larval dispersal and the biological function of GFP-like fluorescent proteins.

published proceedings

  • Mol Ecol

altmetric score

  • 4.95

author list (cited authors)

  • Strader, M. E., Aglyamova, G. V., & Matz, M. V.

citation count

  • 27

complete list of authors

  • Strader, Marie E||Aglyamova, Galina V||Matz, Mikhail V

publication date

  • January 2016