MEPS 222:97-107 (2001)  -  doi:10.3354/meps222097

Genetic variability of the symbiotic dinoflagellates from the wide ranging coral species Seriatopora hystrix and Acropora longicyathus in the Indo-West Pacific

William K. W. Loh1,2,*, Toha Loi2, Dee Carter2, Ove Hoegh-Guldberg1

1Centre for Marine Studies, University of Queensland, St Lucia Qld 4069, Australia
2The Department of Microbiology, The University of Sydney, Sydney NSW 2006, Australia

ABSTRACT: The scleractinian coral species, Seriatopora hystrix and Acropora longicyathus, are widely distributed throughout the latitudinal range of the tropical west Pacific. These 2 coral species live in a mutually beneficial relation with symbiotic dinoflagellates (zooxanthellae), which are passed to their progeny by vertical transmission (zooxanthellate eggs or larvae) and horizontal transmission (eggs or larvae that acquire symbionts from the environment), respectively. For S. hystrix, vertical transmission might create biogeographically isolated and genetically differentiated symbiont populations because the extent of its larval migration is known to be limited. On the other hand, horizontal transmission in corals such as A. longicyathus may result in genetically connected symbiont populations, especially if its zooxanthellae taxa are widely distributed. To examine these hypotheses, symbionts were collected from colonies of S. hystrix and A. longicyathus living in the Great Barrier Reef (Australia), South China Sea (Malaysia) and East China Sea (Ryukyus Archipelago, Japan), and were examined using restriction fragment length polymorphism and sequence analysis of large and small subunit rRNA genes. Phylogenetic analysis assigned the symbionts to 1 of 3 taxonomically distinct groups, known as clades. Symbionts from Australian and Japanese S. hystrix were placed in Clade C, and Malaysian S. hystrix symbionts in the newly described Clade D. Seven of 11 Australian and all Japanese and Malaysian colonies of A. longicyathus had symbiotic dinoflagellates that also grouped with Clade C, but symbionts from the remaining Australian colonies of A. longicyathus grouped with Clade A. Analysis of molecular variance of Clade C symbionts found significant genetic variation in 1 or more geographic groups (69.8%) and to a lesser extent among populations within geographic regions (13.6%). All populations of Clade C symbionts from S. hystrix were genetically differentiated according to geographic region. Although Clade C symbionts of A. longicyathus from Japan resolved into a distinct geographic group, those from Australia and Malaysia did not and were genetically connected. We propose that these patterns of genetic connectivity correlate with differences in the dispersal range of the coral or symbiont propagules and are associated with their respective modes of symbiont transmission.

KEY WORDS: Seriatopora hystrix · Acropora longicyathus · Symbiotic dinoflagellates · Geographic population variation

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