Sibling Species in Montastraea annularis, Coral Bleaching, and the Coral Climate Record

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Science  17 Jan 1992:
Vol. 255, Issue 5042, pp. 330-333
DOI: 10.1126/science.255.5042.330


Measures of growth and skeletal isotopic ratios in the Caribbean coral Montastraea annularis are fundamental to many studies of paleoceanography, environmental degradation, and global climate change. This taxon is shown to consist of at least three sibling species in shallow waters. The two most commonly studied of these show highly significant differences in growth rate and oxygen isotopic ratios, parameters routinely used to estimate past climatic conditions; unusual coloration in the third may have confused research on coral bleaching. Interpretation or comparison of past and current studies can be jeopardized by ignoring these species boundaries.