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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS - Vol. 435 - Feature article
Black corals Cirrhipathes sp. (left) contain zooxanthellae (bottom right, transmission electron microscopy) inside the gastroderm (top right, red fluorescence). Image: Marzia Bo/Elda Gaino

Bo M, Baker AC, Gaino E, Wirshing HH, Scoccia F, Bavestrello G


First description of algal mutualistic endosymbiosis in a black coral (Anthozoa: Antipatharia)


The class Anthozoa (corals, jellies and anemones) is the largest metazoan group forming mutualistic symbioses with zooxanthellae; the Order Antipatharia (black corals), however, was considered azooxanthellate until recently. At 2 sites in Indonesia, Bo and co-workers encountered specimens of the black coral Cirrhipathes sp. that contained zooxanthellae at densities as high as ~107 cells cm-2. Electron microscopy revealed the presence of a distinct symbiosome surrounding the algae, as well as algal reproduction inside the gastrodermal layer. Molecular analysis showed these algal communities to be closely related to the symbionts of clionid sponges (Symbiodinium Clade G). This is the first detailed description of mutualistic endosymbiosis in black corals.


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