High diversity and host specificity observed among symbiotic dinoflagellates in reef coral communities from Hawaii

Todd C. Lajeunesse, Daniel J. Thornhill, Evelyn F. Cox, Frank G. Stanton, William K. Fitt, Gregory W. Schmidt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

176 Scopus citations


The Hawaiian Islands represent one of the most geographically remote locations in the Indo-Pacific, and are a refuge for rare, endemic life. The diversity of symbiotic dinoflagellates (Symbiodinium sp.) inhabiting zooxanthellate corals and other symbiotic cnidarians from the High Islands region was surveyed. From the 18 host genera examined, there were 20 genetically distinct symbiont types (17 in clade C, 1 in clade A, 1 in clade B, and 1 in clade D) distinguished by internal transcribed spacer region 2 sequences. Most "types" were found to associate with a particular host genus or species and nearly half of them have not been identified in surveys of Western and Eastern Pacific hosts. A clear dominant generalist symbiont is lacking among Hawaiian cnidarians. This is in marked contrast with the symbiont community structures of the western Pacific and Caribbean, which are dominated by a few prevalent generalist symbionts inhabiting numerous host taxa. Geographic isolation, low host diversity, and a high proportion of coral species that directly transmit their symbionts from generation to generation are implicated in the formation of a coral reef community exhibiting high symbiont diversity and specificity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)596-603
Number of pages8
JournalCoral Reefs
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2004


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Aquatic Science

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