MEPS 227:221-232 (2002)  -  doi:10.3354/meps227221

No habitat correlation of zooxanthellae in the coral genus Madracis on a Curaçao reef

O. E. Diekmann1,3,*, R. P. M. Bak1,2, L. Tonk3, W. T. Stam3, J. L. Olsen3

1Institute of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics, University of Amsterdam, PO Box 94766, 1090 GT, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
2Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ), PO Box 59, 1790 AB, Den Burg, Texel, The Netherlands
3Department of Marine Biology, Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Studies, University of Groningen, PO Box 14, 9750 AA, Haren, The Netherlands
*Corresponding author. E-mail: Address for correspondence: University of Groningen

ABSTRACT: Symbiotic dinoflagellates belonging to the genus Symbiodinium (zooxanthellae) play an important role in ecological specialization and physiological adaptation in corals. We examined the diversity and depth distribution of zooxanthellae in 5 morphospecies of Madracis at the Buoy I study-reef on Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles. Following earlier studies, we examined length and sequence variation in the D1 and D2 domains of the nuclear rDNA, large subunit (LSU) of Madracis-associated zooxanthellae. Both RFLP and sequence comparisons showed that all 5 Madracis morphospecies host a single type of Symbiodinium belonging to phylogenetic Group B sensu Rowan. No correlation was found between zooxanthellae and habitat depth. The presence of the single, Type-B zooxanthellae in all Madracis morphospecies at Buoy I (and from 3 other biogeographic locations in the Caribbean) suggests that Œgeneralist¹ zooxanthellae-coral associations are equally successful over a range of habitats and that adaptations to different light and nutrient regimes are not necessarily dependent on the mix of zooxanthellae types or zonation with depth, as has been shown in the well-studied Montastraea annularis complex and Acropora cervicornis. A review of the current literature on zooxanthellae diversity in scleractinians (including biogeographic sampling for some species) shows that most species appear to harbor only 1 zooxanthellae type and that the 3 types of Symbiodinium (A, B, C sensu Rowan) are found at all depths and are thus potentially always available for acquisition.


KEY WORDS: Corals · Zooxanthellae · Madracis · Symbiodinium · rDNA · Symbiosis · Brooder · Bleaching


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