Inheritance of somatic mutations by animal offspring. Academic Article uri icon


  • Since 1892, it has been widely assumed that somatic mutations are evolutionarily irrelevant in animals because they cannot be inherited by offspring. However, some nonbilaterians segregate the soma and germline late in development or never, leaving the evolutionary fate of their somatic mutations unknown. By investigating uni- and biparental reproduction in the coral Acropora palmata (Cnidaria, Anthozoa), we found that uniparental, meiotic offspring harbored 50% of the 268 somatic mutations present in their parent. Thus, somatic mutations accumulated in adult coral animals, entered the germline, and were passed on to swimming larvae that grew into healthy juvenile corals. In this way, somatic mutations can increase allelic diversity and facilitate adaptation across habitats and generations in animals.

published proceedings

  • Sci Adv

author list (cited authors)

  • Vasquez Kuntz, K. L., Kitchen, S. A., Conn, T. L., Vohsen, S. A., Chan, A. N., Vermeij, M., ... Baums, I. B.

complete list of authors

  • Vasquez Kuntz, Kate L||Kitchen, Sheila A||Conn, Trinity L||Vohsen, Samuel A||Chan, Andrea N||Vermeij, Mark JA||Page, Christopher||Marhaver, Kristen L||Baums, Iliana B

publication date

  • September 2022