HCNSO Student Theses and Dissertations

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

M.S. Marine Biology

First Advisor

Joana Figueiredo

Second Advisor

Howard Lasker

Third Advisor

David Gilliam


Over the last few decades coral reefs have faced unprecedented declines in health due to natural and anthropogenic sources. Until recently few studies have examined genotypic variation of growth and thermal stress resistance in Acropora cervicornis. This study aims to assess the potential for energy trade-offs between growth and thermal stress resistance by following 120 coral fragments from 12 genotypes of Acropora cervicornis over the course of 15 months to determine average growth rates for each genotype. Following the completion of the growth observation a bleaching event occurred in the lower Florida Keys providing the opportunity for examining thermal stress resistance. We found that the coral genotype had a significant effect on growth and survival; however no significant correlation was observed between growth under normal conditions and thermal stress resistance. This result shows that there is not a trade-off between growth and thermal stress resistance and that a genotype’s ability to resist thermal stress cannot be predicted from growth under normal conditions. The lack of a trade-off facilitates intraspecific competition. For genotypes with similar thermal stress tolerances but different growth characteristics, the increase in frequency of disturbances could result in the increased abundance of faster growing genotypes relative to the slow growing genotypes. These results emphasize the importance of maintaining coral nurseries as gene banks to protect the genetic diversity of the reef area in which it is located. Through protecting a wide variety of genotypes, the likelihood of preserving those that have a high thermal tolerance, disease resistance, or faster growth rates is increased.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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