Reef-building corals occur as a range of colour morphs because of varying types and concentrations of pigments within the host tissues, but little is known about their physiological or ecological significance. Here, we examined whether specific host pigments act as an alternative mechanism for photoacclimation in the coral holobiont. We used the coral Montipora monasteriata (Forskål 1775) as a case study because it occurs in multiple colour morphs (tan, blue, brown, green and red) within varying light-habitat distributions. We demonstrated that two of the non-fluorescent host pigments are responsive to changes in external irradiance, with some host pigments up-regulating in response to elevated irradiance. This appeared to facilitate the retention of antennal chlorophyll by endosymbionts and hence, photosynthetic capacity. Specifically, net Pmax Chl a-1 correlated strongly with the concentration of an orange-absorbing non-fluorescent pigment (CP-580). This had major implications for the energetics of bleached blue-pigmented (CP-580) colonies that maintained net Pmax cm -2 by increasing Pmax Chl a-1. The data suggested that blue morphs can bleach, decreasing their symbiont populations by an order of magnitude without compromising symbiont or coral health.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Plant Science