1

People and ecosystems

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

2

Ecosystem dynamics: past, present and future

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

3

Responding to a changing world

Advancing the fundamental understanding of the key processes underpinning reef resilience.

Coral Bleaching

Coral Bleaching

Coral Reef Studies

ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies
James Cook University Townsville
Queensland 4811 Australia

Phone: 61 7 4781 4000
Email: info@coralcoe.org.au

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An international team of researchers has mapped Nemo’s genome, providing the research community with an invaluable resource to decode the response of fish to environmental changes, including climate change.

In a breakthrough study led by the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (Coral CoE), researchers used high-tech sequencing tools to create one of the most complete genetic maps for the orange clownfish, a common reef inhabitant and star of the Disney movie, Finding Nemo.

“This genome provides an essential blueprint for understanding every aspect of the reef fish’s biology,” said lead author Dr Robert Lehmann of KAUST in Saudi Arabia.

“It contains 26,597 protein coding genes. And like the world’s largest jigsaw puzzle, it took patience and time to assemble.”

The orange clownfish, Amphiprion percula, is not only the most recognized reef fish on Earth, but also one of the most highly studied.

“This species has been central to ground-breaking research in the ecological, environmental and evolutionary aspects of reef fishes,” said co-author Professor Philip Munday of Coral CoE at James Cook University in Australia.

“For example, the clownfish is a model for studying sex change in fishes. It has also helped us understand patterns of larval dispersal in reef fishes and it’s the first fish species for which it was demonstrated that predator avoidance behaviour could be impaired by ocean acidification.”

The team used state-of-the-art technology to sequence the clownfish’s genome. Their genomic and transcriptomic data is now available via the Nemo Genome DB database.

“The clownfish comprises approximately 939 million nucleotides that needed to be fit together,” said co-author Professor Timothy Ravasi of KAUST.

“This is an extremely valuable resource for the research community and will further establish the orange clownfish as an ideal lab subject for genetics and genomic studies.”

“This is one of the most complete fish genomes ever produced,” said co-author Professor David Miller of Coral CoE at James Cook University.

“Using the PacBio single molecule, real-time sequencing technology, enabled us to achieve a polished result.”

The paper “Finding Nemo’s Genes: A chromosome-scale reference assembly of the genome of the organge clownfish, Amhiprion percula” is published today in the journal Molecular Ecology Resources.

Images available here.

 

This research is dedicated to the memory of Dr Sylvain Forêt, a brilliant scientist, co-author, colleague and friend. (Tribute, pg. 10)

 

Citation: Lehmann, R, Lightfoot, D.J., Schunter, C., Mitchell, C.T., Ohyanagi, Mineta, K., Foret, S., Berumen, M.L., Miller, D.J., Aranda, M., Gojobori, T., Munday, P.L., and Ravasi, T. (2018) Finding Nemo’s Genes: A chromosome-scale reference assembly of the genome of the orange clownfish Amphiprion percula. Molecular Ecology Resources

 

CONTACTS

AUSTRALIA

Prof Philip Munday

Coral CoE

P: +61 (0) 0408 714 794, +61 (0)7 4781 5341 (AEST/ GMT +10)

E: philip.munday@jcu.edu.au

 

SAUDI ARABIA

Dr Robert Lehmann

KAUST (AST/ GMT +3)

E: robert.lehman@kaust.edu.sa

 

Prof Timothy Ravasi

KAUST

P: +61 (0) 491333697 (PDT/ GMT -7)

E: timothy.ravasi@kaust.edu.sa

 

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Catherine Naum

Communications Manager

ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies

P: +61 (0) 0428 785 895, +61 (0)7 4781 6067 (AEST/ GMT +10)

E: Catherine.Naum1@jcu.edu.au

 

Michelle Ponto

Communications – Editorial and Global Media Manager

King Abdullah University of Science and Technology

P: +966 (54) 470 1668 (AST/ GMT +3)

E: michelle.ponto@kaust.edu.sa

 

 

 

In a world first study, researchers at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (Coral CoE) at James Cook University have unlocked the genetic mystery of why some species are able to adjust to warming oceans.

Adaptation to warmer water happens in the genes. Image: H. Veilleux

In a collaborative project with scientists from the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia, the researchers examined how reef fish’s genes responded after several generations living at higher temperatures.

“Some fish have a remarkable capacity to adjust to higher water temperatures over a few generations of exposure,” says Dr Heather Veilleux from the Coral CoE.

“But until now, how they do this has been a mystery.”

Using cutting-edge molecular tools the research team identified 53 key genes that are involved in long-term, multi-generational acclimation to higher temperatures.

“By understanding the function of these genes we can understand how fish cope with higher temperatures,” explains Dr Veilleux.

“We found that shifts in energy production are key to maintaining performance at high temperatures,” says Dr Veilleux.

“Immune and stress responses also helped fish cope with warmer water.”

The project involved rearing coral reef fish at different temperatures for multiple generations in purpose-built facilities at James Cook University.

“We then used state-of-the-art genetic methods to examine gene function in the fish,” says Dr Tim Ravasi from KAUST.

“ By matching gene expression to metabolic performance of the fish we were able to identify which genes make acclimation to higher temperatures possible,” adds Professor Philip Munday from the Coral CoE.

The study is the first to reveal the molecular processes that may help coral reef fishes and other marine species adjust to warmer conditions in the future.

“Understanding which genes are involved in transgenerational acclimation, and how their expression is regulated, will improve our understanding of adaptive responses to rapid environmental change and help identify which species are most at risk from climate change and which species are more tolerant,” Dr Veilleux says.

~~~

Paper:

Molecular processes of transgenerational acclimation to a warming ocean, by Heather D. Veilleux, Taewoo Ryu, Jennifer M. Donelson, Lynne van Herwerden, Loqmane Seridi, Yanal Ghosheh, Michael L. Berumen, William Leggat, Timothy Ravasi and Philip Munday is published in the journal Nature Climate Change.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2724

Images:

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/iaux0wgljooc1yu/AABxiMtWe6m_W3N0U0KpVWTYa?dl=0

(Images must carry credits as listed in Dropbox folder)

Contacts:

Dr Heather Veilleux – heather.veilleux@jcu.edu.au, +61 7 47814850ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies

Professor Philip Munday – Philip.munday@jcu.edu.au, +61 (0) 7 47815341ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies

Professor Timothy Ravasi – timothy.ravasi@kaust.edu.sa +966-544700067
KAUST Environmental Epigenetic Program (KEEP) and the Red Sea Research Center

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Coral Reef Studies

ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies
James Cook University Townsville
Queensland 4811 Australia

Phone: 61 7 4781 4000
Email: info@coralcoe.org.au