This report documents the extent to which coral colonies show fluctuations in their associations with different endosymbiotic dinoflagellates. The genetic identity of Symbiodinium from six coral species [Acropora palmata (Lamarck), A. cervicornis (Lamarck), Siderastrea siderea (Ellis and Solander), Montastrea faveolata (Ellis and Solander), M. annularis (Ellis and Solander), and M. franksi (Gregory)] was examined seasonally over five years (1998 and 2000-2004) in the Bahamas and Florida Keys at shallow (1 to 4 m) fore-reef/patch reef sites and at deeper fore-reef (12-15 m) locations. Symbionts were identified genetically using denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) finger-printing of the internal transcribed spacer region 2 (ITS2) of ribosomal RNA gene loci. Repetitive sampling from most labeled colonies from the Bahamas and the Florida Keys showed little to no change in their dominant symbiont. In contrast, certain colonies of M. annularis and M. franksi from the Florida Keys exhibited shifts in their associations attributed to recovery from the stresses of the 1997-1998 El Niño southern oscillation (ENSO) event. Over several years, a putatively stress-tolerant clade D type of Symbiodinium was progressively replaced in these colonies by symbionts typically found in M. annularis and M. franksi in Florida and at other Caribbean locations. Greater environmental fluctuations in Florida may explain the observed changes among some of the symbioses. Furthermore, symbiotic associations were more heterogeneous at shallow sites, relative to deep sites. The exposure to greater environmental variability near the surface may explain the higher symbiont diversity found within and between host colonies.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Aquatic Science