Coral immunology and resistance to disease
Reed, Keven C.
Muller, Erinn M.
van Woesik, Robert
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Scleractinian corals (phylum Cnidaria, class Anthozoa) have innate immunological responses against infections. Research has recently suggested that corals also possess an adaptive-like immunological repertoire that recognizes specific pathogens and allografts. While evolutionarily distinct, the corals' innate and adaptive-like immunity systems are not mutually exclusive because the phagocytic cells of the non-specific, innate immune system may activate specific adaptive immunological responses. Warming oceans may immunocompromise coral hosts, making them more susceptible to tropical marine diseases, independent of the virulence of the pathogen. The ability of corals to ward off both primary and opportunistic infections, through adaptive-like mechanisms, may play a critical role in the corals' ability to fight future disease infection. Here we show evidence that corals possess immunological repertoires that extend well beyond simple innate defenses. The extent to which corals have developed such an adaptive-like immune repertoire will determine whether corals will survive climate change and other anthropogenic disturbances.