Corallite sizes of reef corals: decoupling of evolutionary and ecological trends

Dimitrijevic D, Raja Schoob NB, Kießling W (2023)

Publication Language: English

Publication Type: Journal article, Original article

Publication year: 2023


DOI: 10.1017/pab.2023.28

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Corallite sizes reflect a continuum in the efficacy of photosymbiosis in colonial reef corals, with smaller corallite sizes generally associated with higher autotrophy. Using a large compilation of reef-coral traits and corallite diameters as a proxy, we test here the hypothesis that photosymbiotic efficacy has increased over the evolutionary history of scleractinian corals. To gain a more comprehensive understanding of the evolutionary versus ecological patterns of corallite sizes of reef corals, we used three analytical methods: (1) occurrences-weighted within-bin analyses as a proxy for abundance or ecological dominance to depict ecological patterns; (2) unweighted range-through analyses; and (3) unweighted sampled-in-bin analyses to represent diversity in terms of taxonomic richness, enabling us to trace evolutionary patterns. By-genus, range-through analysis indicates a slightly positive trend of corallite sizes toward the Recent. However, the occurrences-weighted assessment shows a pronounced negative trend of corallite sizes in colonial corals since the Mesozoic. Random walk and directional evolution are both statistically supported to explain this long-term decrease. A driven trend is evolutionarily plausible, giving reef corals a selective advantage in the oligotrophic environments they largely occupy today.

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How to cite


Dimitrijevic, D., Raja Schoob, N.B., & Kießling, W. (2023). Corallite sizes of reef corals: decoupling of evolutionary and ecological trends. Paleobiology.


Dimitrijevic, Danijela, Nussaibah Begum Raja Schoob, and Wolfgang Kießling. "Corallite sizes of reef corals: decoupling of evolutionary and ecological trends." Paleobiology (2023).

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