Corals are animals that form beautiful and valuable reefs that are in global decline due to threats from climate change, disease, and pollution. The protection of coral reefs requires understanding how corals respond to changing environmental conditions. Recent research makes it increasingly clear that corals do not live in isolation: they harbor microbial symbionts on their surface and even inside their tissues. These associated communities contribute to the function and fitness of the coral animal (which, together with its microbes, is called a “holobiont”) and may play key roles in determining how corals respond to stress.
The Kubanek Lab has partnered with the Lab of Frank Stuart at the University of Montana in a recent multi-omics study on the dynamics within coral holobionts over the course of a day and into the night. Untargeted LC-MS metabolomics will complement transcriptomic and genomic analyses, contributing to highly-detailed snapshots of the holobiont’s biochemical state at various points over the diel cycle. Patterns of metabolic response to routine daily changes in light, temperature, and water chemistry could shed light on how reefs might respond to more drastic changes brought about by climate change and other anthropogenic impacts.