MEPS 439:117-126 (2011)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps09315

Symbiodinium diversity in mesophotic coral communities on the Great Barrier Reef: a first assessment

Pim Bongaerts1,2,*, Eugenia M. Sampayo4, Thomas C. L. Bridge5, Tyrone Ridgway6, Francisca Vermeulen7, Norbert Englebert1, Jody M. Webster8, Ove Hoegh-Guldberg2,3

1School of Biological Sciences,
2ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, and
3Global Change Institute, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, Queensland 4072, Australia
4Department of Biology, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania 16802, USA
5School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland 4811, Australia
6Australian Institute of Marine Science, The UWA Oceans Institute (M096), Crawley, Western Australia 6009, Australia
7School of Biological Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington 6140, New Zealand
8School of Geosciences, The University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales 2006, Australia

ABSTRACT: Despite a growing interest in mesophotic coral ecosystems (MCEs), information on the photosynthetic endosymbionts (genus Symbiodinium) associated with scleractinian corals inhabiting deep reef ecosystems is sparse. Here, the deep-water Symbiodinium diversity is assessed from 10 different coral genera at a depth range of 45 to 70 m on the Great Barrier Reef (GBR), Australia. Symbiodinium identity was established using denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) fingerprinting of the internal transcribed spacer region 2 (ITS2) of the ribosomal DNA. Except for the novel Symbiodinium type C131 (found in Porites), all Symbiodinium types have previously been identified in shallow reef corals across the Pacific. Specimens of Seriatopora, Montipora, and Porites harboured similar symbionts as reported in shallow water (e.g. C3n, C3n-hh, C15, and C17), thus adhering to patterns of host-specificity across a wide depth range. However, several other Symbiodinium types were found to transcend previously established patterns of host-specificity at mesophotic depths. For example, ‘host-specialist’ types C3i and C3k (previously only reported in Acropora spp.) were found here to associate with a range of different genera (Leptoseris, Pachyseris, Fungia, and Echinophyllia). Although limited in sample size, this preliminary survey indicates that mesophotic habitats on the GBR may not represent an isolated community in terms of Symbiodinium diversity, which has significant relevance to their potential to act as refugia. Moreover, the present study identifies the need to examine symbiont diversity across broad environmental ranges (including MCEs) in order to gain an accurate understanding of symbiosis specificity and distribution range of specific coral-Symbiodinium associations.


KEY WORDS: Symbiodinium · Mesophotic · Deep reefs · Coral · ITS2 · DGGE · Great Barrier Reef


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Cite this article as: Bongaerts P, Sampayo EM, Bridge TCL, Ridgway T and others (2011) Symbiodinium diversity in mesophotic coral communities on the Great Barrier Reef: a first assessment. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 439:117-126. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps09315

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