The evolution of calcification in reef-building corals

Xin Wang, Didier Zoccola, Yi Jin Liew, Eric Tambutte, Guoxin Cui, Denis Allemand, Sylvie Tambutte, Manuel Aranda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Abstract Corals build the structural foundation of coral reefs, one of the most diverse and productive ecosystems on our planet. While the process of coral calcification that allows corals to build these immense structures has been extensively investigated, we still know little about the evolutionary processes that allowed the soft-bodied ancestor of corals to become the ecosystem builders they are today. Using a combination of phylogenomics, proteomics and immunohistochemistry, we show that scleractinian corals likely acquired the ability to calcify sometime between ∼308 - ∼265 Mya through a combination of lineage specific gene duplications and the co-option of existing genes to the calcification process. Our results suggest that coral calcification did not require extensive evolutionary changes, but rather few coral-specific gene duplications and a series of small, gradual optimizations of ancestral proteins and their co-option to the calcification process.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalMolecular Biology and Evolution
StatePublished - Apr 19 2021

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2021-04-27
Acknowledgements: We thank Yong Li for assistance with the bioinformatic analyses and helpful discussions that greatly improved the manuscript. We also thank Natacha CaminitiSegonds and Nathalie Techer for their help respectively for organic matrix extraction and immunolocalization experiments.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • Molecular Biology


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