Marine Mules: Near-sterile hyrids boost coral diversity

1:58pm, June 12, 2002

Some of the considerable biodiversity of corals may come from underwater versions of mules, say researchers.

Genetic analysis of what were once considered three species of Caribbean Acropora coral confirms that one of them is actually a collection of first-generation hybrids of the other two, says Steven V. Vollmer of Harvard University. The hybrid corals can reproduce asexually and create big, craggy colonies. They can also produce eggs and sperm in the lab, but genetic analysis of coral in the wild indicates that the hybrids seldom succeed at sexual reproduction, Vollmer and his Harvard coworker Stephen R. Palumbi report in the June 14 Science.

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