Population genetics of the coral Acropora millepora : Towards a genomic predictor of bleaching

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Although reef-building corals are rapidly declining worldwide, responses to bleaching vary both within and among species. Because these inter-individual differences are partly heritable, they should in principle be predictable from genomic data. Towards that goal, we generated a chromosome-scale genome assembly for the coral Acropora millepora . We then obtained whole genome sequences for 237 phenotyped samples collected at 12 reefs distributed along the Great Barrier Reef, among which we inferred very little population structure. Scanning the genome for evidence of local adaptation, we detected signatures of long-term balancing selection in the heat-shock co-chaperone sacsin . We further used 213 of the samples to conduct a genome-wide association study of visual bleaching score, incorporating the polygenic score derived from it into a predictive model for bleaching in the wild. These results set the stage for the use of genomics-based approaches in conservation strategies.

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