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Understanding of the links between coral reef ecosystems, the goods and services they provide to people, and the wellbeing of human societies.


Ecosystem dynamics: past, present and future

Examining the multi-scale dynamics of reefs, from population dynamics to macroevolution


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Coral Reef Studies

From 2005 to 2022, the main node of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies was headquartered at James Cook University in Townsville, Queensland (Australia)

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Signatures of transgenerational molecular brain response to ocean acidification in fish


Thursday 10th March 2016 - 16:00 to 17:00 hrs

Building 19 (Kevin Stark Research Building) Room #106 (upstairs), JCU, Townsville
Celia Schunter
Celia Schunter

Abstract: The oceans are becoming more acidic due to the uptake of additional carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The impact of ocean acidification on the structure and function of coral reef systems will depend on the capacity for species to adapt to these changes. Recent studies show that the behaviour of reef fishes is impaired when exposed to projected future CO2 levels; however there is also considerable individual variation that might enable populations to adapt. We used a genome-wide approach to evaluate the heritability of this variation in sensitivity of the spiny damselfish, Acanthochromis polyacanthus. Offspring of CO2 tolerant and sensitive adult breeding pairs were reared at a near future level of CO2 (754 μatm) or kept at present control levels (414 μatm). By integrating 36 brain transcriptomes and proteomes and a de novo assembled genome of the offspring we investigate the molecular reaction to increased CO2 as well as the heritability of the molecular phenotype. The exposure to high CO2 resulted in a differential regulation of 173 and 62 genes to the control condition in the tolerant and sensitive group respectively. The main difference in the transcriptional program was observed in transcripts and proteins involved in the brain’s serine and glycine metabolism. Importantly, there is a clear signature of the parents’ sensitivity to high CO2 in the molecular phenotype of the offspring expressed by the differential regulation of genes controlling the circadian rhythm indicating adaptive potential through natural standing variation.

Bio: Celia was born in a landlocked place in the southwest of Germany but as soon as she could she moved close to the Sea. She did her undergraduate degree in Marine Biology at JCU. Early in her career she became interested in the field of Molecular Biology. This was reinforced by a Masters degree in Evolutionary Biology and a PhD in Genetics from the University of Barcelona. In her PhD she combined the marine and molecular to study fish population genetics and molecular signatures of social dominance and reproductive success. She now is a Post-doc in the Integrative Systems Biology Lab in KAUST (King Abdullah University of Science and Technology) where her main research focuses on the molecular response of organisms to changing environments through transcriptomic and epigenomic approaches.


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