MEPS 378:105-112 (2009)  -  doi:10.3354/meps07857

Algal symbionts increase oxidative damage and death in coral larvae at high temperatures

Irina M. Yakovleva1,2, Andrew H. Baird3,*, Hiromi H. Yamamoto4, Ranjeet Bhagooli1,5,6, Masanori Nonaka4, Michio Hidaka1

1Department of Chemistry, Biology and Marine Science, University of the Ryukyus, Nishihara, Okinawa 903-0213, Japan
2A.V. Zhirmunsky Institute of Marine Biology, Far East Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Palchevskogo, 17, Vladivostok 690041, Russia
3ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland 4811, Australia
4Churaumi Aquarium, Motobu-cho, Okinawa 905-0206, Japan
5Department of Biosciences, Faculty of Science, University of Mauritius, Reduit, Mauritius
6The Biodiversity and Environment Institute, Reduit, Mauritius
*Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: Mutualisms are often viewed as reciprocal exploitations that nonetheless provide net benefits to each partner. While the benefits of symbiosis with dinoflagellates of the genus Symbiodinium (zooxanthellae) for corals are well understood, the costs of the association, particularly when under stress, remain a focus of much research. One of the primary impediments to exploring the costs of symbiosis in zooxanthellate corals is that it is impossible to examine the animal host in isolation. Evidence for a cost of symbiosis with zooxanthellae includes the fact that direct transmission of zooxanthellae between generations is rare, particularly in broadcast spawning corals. Fortuitously, the absence of zooxanthellae in oocytes of many species and the ability to readily infect larvae with zooxanthellae provide an opportunity to compare individuals with and without these symbionts. Here, we use this larval model to show that individuals with zooxanthellae have lower survival than those lacking zooxanthellae when exposed to high temperature. Higher activity of anti-oxidant defenses and higher levels of oxidative cellular damage in larvae with zooxanthellae suggest that oxidative stress originating in the symbionts is a cause of tissue damage in the host under heat stress. We hypothesize that this may be one reason for the absence of direct transmission of zooxanthellae in most broadcast spawning corals whose propagules must spend at least 1 d on the ocean surface.


KEY WORDS: Bleaching · Coral reef · Evolution · Oxidative stress · Symbiosis


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Cite this article as: Yakovleva IM, Baird AH, Yamamoto HH, Bhagooli R, Nonaka M, Hidaka M (2009) Algal symbionts increase oxidative damage and death in coral larvae at high temperatures. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 378:105-112

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