Stress resistance and adaptation of the aquatic invasive species Tubastraea coccinea (Lesson, 1829) to climate change and ocean acidification.
A great number of studies published on long-term ocean warming and increased acidification have forecasted changes in regional biodiversity preempted by aquatic invasive species (AIS). The present paper is focused on invasive Tubastraea coccinea (TC), an azooxanthellate AIS coral thriving in regions of the Gulf of Mexico, which has shown an ability to invade altered habitats, including endemic Indo-Pacific T. coccinea (TCP) populations. To determine if invasive TC are more stress resistant than endemic Indo-Pacific T. coccinea (TCP), authors measured tissue loss and heat shock protein 70 (HSP70) expression, using a full factorial design, post exposure to changes in pH (7.5 and 8.1) and heat stress (31°C and 34°C). Overall, the mean time required for TCP to reach 50% tissue loss (LD50) was less than observed for TC by a factor of 0.45 (p < 0.0003). Increasing temperature was found to be a significant main effect (p = 0.004), decreasing the LD50 by a factor of 0.58. Increasing acidity to pH 7.5 from 8.1 did not change the sensitivity of TC to temperature; however, TCP displayed increased sensitivity at 31°C. Increases in the relative density of HSP70 (TC) were seen at all treatment levels. Hence, TC appears more robust compared to TCP and may emerge as a new dominant coral displacing endemic populations as a consequence of climate change.