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Understanding the evolutionary and physiological mechanisms that drive thermal resilience will be crucial to supporting future coral conservation and restoration. Recent research has revealed that corals locally adapted to higher ambient temperatures may demonstrate greater resiliency in the face of acute thermal stress. In this study, to determine whether Astrangia poculata exhibits local adaptation, I measured whether acclimation of coral colonies to elevated seawater temperatures impacts basal rates of cellular respiration, photosynthesis, as well as stress indicators including endosymbiont density, chlorophyll fluorescence, and chlorophyll a content. I hypothesized that corals from North Carolina, which experienced higher temperatures in the beginning stages of their life history, would demonstrate greater thermal optima than the corals from Rhode Island and Massachusetts. However, I found no evidence for local adaptation to origin temperature in the endosymbionts of A. poculata, and limited evidence for local adaptation in the respiratory response of the coral host. Continued study of the physiological effects of long-term exposure to elevated seawater temperatures will be crucial to understanding the impact of climate change on A. poculata and corals worldwide.
Available for download on Monday, May 18, 2026