Coral reefs have received increased attention due to the fear global warming will decimate this fragile ecosystem. Currently, the skeletal shape of coral, such as branching, is used to distinguish one species from another. In 2009, an article published in the journal BMC Evolutionary Biology, proved this method to be inaccurate. Instead, the skeletal shape of reef building coral may change due to divergent evolution or reproductive isolation. Being able to distinguish between two species is crucial for scientists. Marine biologists strive to learn which species may coexist and possibility interbreed, as they may apply this knowledge to rebuilding coral reefs. In response to this dilemma, researchers from the University of Hawaii at Manoa's Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology carried out molecular studies to further understand biodiversity as well as the evolution of coral. With the reef building coral genus Porites, receiving the most attention. By using genetic markers, it was determined some corals which appeared to be phenotypically different were nearly genetically identical. Team leader Zac Forsman, hopes this novel research will recognize the loss of coral life and conserve its biodiversity.
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