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Conci, Nicola; Griesshaber, Erika; Rivera‐Vicéns, Ramón E.; Schmahl, Wolfgang W.; Vargas, Sergio and Wörheide, Gert ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-6380-7421 (2024): Molecular and mineral responses of corals grown under artificial Calcite Sea conditions. In: Geobiology, Vol. 22, No. 1 [PDF, 18MB]


The formation of skeletal structures composed of different calcium carbonate polymorphs (e.g. aragonite and calcite) appears to be both biologically and environmentally regulated. Among environmental factors influencing aragonite and calcite precipitation, changes in seawater conditions—primarily in the molar ratio of magnesium and calcium during so-called ‘Calcite’ (mMg:mCa below 2) or ‘Aragonite’ seas (mMg:mCa above 2)—have had profound impacts on the distribution and performance of marine calcifiers throughout Earth's history. Nonetheless, the fossil record shows that some species appear to have counteracted such changes and kept their skeleton polymorph unaltered. Here, the aragonitic octocoral Heliopora coerulea and the aragonitic scleractinian Montipora digitata were exposed to Calcite Sea-like mMg:mCa with various levels of magnesium and calcium concentration, and changes in both the mineralogy (i.e. CaCO3 polymorph) and gene expression were monitored. Both species maintained aragonite deposition at lower mMg:mCa ratios, while concurrent calcite presence was only detected in M. digitata. Despite a strong variability between independent experimental replicates for both species, the expression for a set of putative calcification-related genes, including known components of the M. digitata skeleton organic matrix (SkOM), was found to consistently change at lower mMg:mCa. These results support the previously proposed involvements of the SkOM in counteracting decreases in seawater mMg:mCa. Although no consistent expression changes in calcium and magnesium transporters were observed, down-regulation calcium channels in H. coerulea in one experimental replicate and at an mMg:mCa of 2.5, pointing to a possible active calcium uptake regulation by the corals under altered mMg:mCa.

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