Closely related Symbiodinium spp. differ in relative dominance in coral reef host communities across environmental, latitudinal and biogeographic gradients

T. C. LaJeunesse, R. Bhagooli, M. Hidaka, L. DeVantier, T. Done, G. W. Schmidt, W. K. Fitt, O. Hoegh-Guldberg

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The diversity and community structures of symbiotic dinoflagellates are described from reef invertebrates in southern and central provinces of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR), Australia, and Zamami Island, Okinawa, Japan. The symbiont assemblages from region to region were dominated by Clade C Symbiodinium spp. and consisted of numerous host-specific and/or rare types (specialists), and several types common to many hosts (generalists). Prevalence in the host community among certain host-generalist symbionts differed between inshore and offshore environments, across latitudinal (central versus southern GBR) gradients, and over wide geographic ranges (GBR versus Okinawa). One particular symbiont (C3h) from the GBR had a dramatic shift in dominance. Its prevalence ranged from being extremely rare, or absent on high-latitude reefs to dominating the scleractinian diversity on a mid-latitude inshore reef. These changes occurred among coral fauna whose larvae must acquire symbionts from environmental sources (horizontal symbiont acquisition). Such differences did not occur among 'vertical transmitters' such as Porites spp., Montipora spp. and pocilloporids (corals that directly transmit symbionts to their offspring) or among those hosts displaying 'horizontal acquisition', but that associate with specific symbionts. Most host-specialized types were found to be characteristic of a particular geographic region (i.e. Okinawa versus Central GBR versus Southern GBR). The mode of symbiont acquisition may play an important role in how symbiont composition may shift in west Pacific host communities in response to climate change. There is no indication that recent episodes of mass bleaching have provoked changes in host-symbiont combinations from the central GBR.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)147-161
Number of pages15
JournalMarine Ecology Progress Series
StatePublished - Dec 21 2004


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology

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