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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 435:1-11 (2011)  -  DOI:

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

Marzia Bo1,*, Andrew C. Baker2,3, Elda Gaino4, Herman H. Wirshing2, Francesca Scoccia4, Giorgio Bavestrello1

1Dipartimento di Scienze del Mare, Università Politecnica delle Marche, Ancona 60131, Italy
2Division of Marine Biology and Fisheries, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami, 4600 Rickenbacker Causeway, Miami, Florida 33149, USA
3Marine Program, Wildlife Conservation Society, 2300 Southern Blvd., Bronx, New York 10460, USA
4Dipartimento di Biologia Cellulare e Ambientale, Università degli Studi di Perugia, Perugia 06123, Italy

ABSTRACT: The class Anthozoa is the largest metazoan group forming mutualistic symbioses with microalgae. These algal symbionts (most commonly dinoflagellates of the genus Symbiodinium) are distributed across most anthozoan orders. Records of algal cells in antipatharian (black coral) tissues have been reported, but no detailed descriptions of a mutualistic endosymbiosis exist. Here we report on zooxanthellate specimens of an unidentified black coral species within the genus Cirrhipathes that were collected from reef slopes at depths of 15 to 38 m in the Indonesian Archipelago. Symbionts were abundant (~107 symbionts cm–2) and ultrastructural analysis revealed the presence of a distinct symbiosome surrounding the algae, as well as algal reproduction inside the gastrodermal layer. Molecular analysis revealed the algae to be closely related to the symbionts (Symbiodinium clade G) of clionid sponges. There was also evidence for additional symbionts in clade C at low abundance. Taken together, these findings (high abundance, taxonomic identity, presence of symbiosome, in situ reproduction, and depth distribution) strongly suggest that these algae are functioning as mutualists. This study confirms and describes the symbiosis between Symbiodinium and a black coral species of the genus Cirrhipathes, supports the pervasiveness of mutualisms among anthozoan taxa, and highlights the diversity and flexibility of these symbiotic associations in a poorly studied group.

KEY WORDS: Symbiosis · Zooxanthellae · Cirrhipathes · Symbiodinium · Black corals · Coral reefs

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Cite this article as: Bo M, Baker AC, Gaino E, Wirshing HH, Scoccia F, Bavestrello G (2011) First description of algal mutualistic endosymbiosis in a black coral (Anthozoa: Antipatharia). Mar Ecol Prog Ser 435:1-11.

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