Corals are types of marine invertebrates that act as keystone species for one of the most biodiverse ecosystems on Earth, coral reefs. Corals are made up of tiny organisms called polyps. The gathering of thousands of polyps is what creates a coral colony which are the structures we typically think of when we picture a coral. These coral colonies are what form coral reefs. The polyps use symbiosis not just for nutrients but to form the coral skeleton that is made of calcium carbonate. Corals obtain nutrients via coral symbiosis and photosynthesis. However, this photosynthesis is only occurring because of the algae attached to the coral and not the coral itself. Symbiosis occurs with Symbiodinium algae, or zooxanthellae, where the coral acts as the host and obtains fixed organic carbon from the algae while the algae receives inorganic nutrients recycled from the coral’s metabolism (1).
Mass bleaching events triggered by changing water temperatures and ocean acidification has spurred a rapid decline in coral populations. Bleaching is essentially the loss of the microbial symbionts that coral hosts rely on for nutrients and it often leads to the coral’s death. Because of the resources coral reefs provide for much of marine life, coral biology and conservation has become an area of focus for scientists. There have been many studies that have looked at the different factors contributing to coral decline from higher temperatures to coral disease. Scientists are also researching ways to aid active coral restoration by incorporating genetics or examining the potential of microbes.
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Legend/credit: Electron micrograph of the Ebola Zaire virus. This was the first photo ever taken of the virus, on 10/13/1976. By Dr. F.A. Murphy, now at U.C. Davis, then at the CDC.
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Section 1 Genetics
Include some current research, with at least one image.
Hybridization creates new gene combinations and increases genetic diversity, which can possibly enhance adaptation under new environmental conditions. The fitness of a hybrid relative to the parental species can depend on the gene effect. If the gene effect is additive or over-dominant, the fitness of the hybrid is higher than one or both parents. There has been previous research to suggest that interspecific hybrid corals, particularly of Acropora, have had higher fitness than purebred corals and, in the lab, have shown resilience under elevated temperatures. Research conducted recently at AIMS used seven parental species of Acropora to ask whether hybrid Acropora larvae had enhanced survivorship and settlement success compared to the purebreed larvae under ambient and elevated temperatures. There are barriers to fertilization however, called prezygotic barriers. This study in particular noted gametic incompatibility and temporal isolation as possible barriers preventing interspecific hybridization in the wild. In temporal isolation of coral, two populations cannot interbreed because they release their gametes at different times, i.e. ‘early spawners’ and ‘late spawners’. In this study, gametic incompatibility was a stronger barrier than temporal isolation and this strength varied between species pairs and the hybrid cross direction. Survival of the hybrid offspring groups was higher or equal to the purebreed offspring, although fertilization rates were lower. Hybrid offspring were also able to settle normally under elevated temperatures. Overall, hybrid offspring demonstrated resilience that could be useful in adapting to climate change. Further research is needed to assess the reproductive success of future hybrid generations. 
Section 2 Microbiome
Include some current research, with a second image.
Overall text length should be at least 1,000 words (before counting references), with at least 2 images. Include at least 5 references under Reference section.
- https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-41190-5 Chan, W.Y., Peplow, L.M. & Oppen, M.J.H. Interspecific gamete compatibility and hybrid larval fitness in reef-building corals: Implications for coral reef restoration. Sci Rep 9, 4757 (2019) doi:10.1038/s41598-019-41190-5
- Hodgkin, J. and Partridge, F.A. "Caenorhabditis elegans meets microsporidia: the nematode killers from Paris." 2008. PLoS Biology 6:2634-2637.
- Bartlett et al.: Oncolytic viruses as therapeutic cancer vaccines. Molecular Cancer 2013 12:103.