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Corals -- More complex than you?

ox white syndrome and white band are the names of some of these diseases.

"The coral immune system is a black box at present. How corals cope with the worldwide upsurge in diseases, and the extent to which they are affected by other stresses caused by human activity are important questions. The similarity of the coral and human innate immune repertoires implies that they may function in similar ways, so the hope is that we can apply what we know about human health to better understand coral disease.

There may also be a direct payback, in the sense that, by exploring the ancestral immune genetic repertoire of corals and how it functions in a simple animal, we will gain new insights which will help in the battle against human disease, he adds.

The richness of the coral genome unexpectedly loaded with genes, many of which were thought to have evolved much later is also casting new light on evolution.

It appears that all animals lose genes during evolution; those with fast generation turnover times like fruit flies shed genes particularly fast. Corals which take at least 5years to reach sexual maturity (compared with the laboratory fruitfly whose generation lasts only 3-4 weeks), and which have long and overlapping generation times, may thus be a living museum of ancestral animal genes.

However corals use all those genes to produce only 12-14 types of body cells. Humans, on the other hand, have developed hundreds, even thousands of different cell types.

A possible explanation for this, Prof. Miller believes, is that coral genes may interact with each other in far less complex ways. Humans, on the other hand, are the product of a continuous and complicated dialogue between thousands of genes.

Who has the best formula for long-term survival remains unclear. Todays corals first appeared 240 million years ago. So far humans have barely survived for 2 per cent of the time that corals have endured. '"/>

Contact: David Miller
David.Miller@jcu.edu.au
61-074-781-4473
ARC Centre of Excellence in Coral Reef Studies
30-Apr-2007


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