Zooxanthellae of the Montastraea annularis species complex: patterns of distribution of four taxa of Symbiodinium on different reefs and across depths. Academic Article uri icon


  • Corals of the Montastraea annularis complex host several different dinoflagellates in the genus Symbiodinium. Here we address two questions arising from our previous studies of these associations on an offshore reef. First, do the same taxa and patterns of association (Symbiodinium A and B found in higher irradiance habitats than Symbiodinium C) occur on an inshore reef? Second, does M. franksi at the limits of its depth range host only Symbiodinium C, as it does at intermediate depths? In both surveys, a new Symbiodinium taxon and different patterns of distribution (assayed by analyses of small ribosomal subunit RNA genes [srDNA]) were observed. Inshore, a taxon we name Symbiodinium E predominated in higher irradiance habitats in M. franksi and its two sibling species; the only other zooxanthella observed was Symbiodinium C. Offshore, M. franksi mainly hosted Symbiodinium C, but hosted Symbiodinium A, B, C, and E in shallow water and Symbiodinium E and C in very deep water. Symbiodinium E may be stress-tolerant. Observed srDNA heterogeneity within samples of Symbiodinium B, C, and E is interpreted as variation across copies within this multigene family. Experimental bleaching of Symbiodinium C supported this interpretation. Thus sequences from natural samples should be interpreted cautiously.

publication date

  • December 2001