Coral reefs worldwide face a variety of threats and many coral species are increasingly endangered. It is often assumed that rare coral species face higher risks of extinction because they have very small effective population sizes, a predicted consequence of which is decreased genetic diversity and adaptive potential.
- Methodology/Principal Findings
Here we show that some Indo-Pacific members of the coral genus Acropora have very small global population sizes and are likely to be unidirectional hybrids. Whether this reflects hybrid origins or secondary hybridization following speciation is unclear.
The interspecific gene flow demonstrated here implies increased genetic diversity and adaptive potential in these coral species. Rare Acropora species may therefore be less vulnerable to extinction than has often been assumed because of their propensity for hybridization and introgression, which may increase their adaptive potential.