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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 494:149-158 (2013)  -  DOI:

Early uptake of specific symbionts enhances the post-settlement survival of Acropora corals

Go Suzuki1,*, Hiroshi Yamashita1, Sayaka Kai1, Takeshi Hayashibara1, Kiyoshi Suzuki2, Yukihiro Iehisa2, Wataru Okada3, Wataru Ando4, Takeshi Komori

1Ishigaki Tropical Station, Seikai National Fisheries Research Institute, 148-446 Fukai-Ota, Ishigaki, Okinawa 907-0451, Japan
2Engineering Division, Daikure Co. Ltd., 1-24 Tsukiji-cho, Kure, Hiroshima 737-8513, Japan
3Coastal Environmental Design Division, ECOH Co. Ltd., 1-10-5 Tahara, Naha, Okinawa 901-0156, Japan
4Fisheries Infrastructure Development Center, 2-14-5 Tukiji, Chuo-ku, Tokyo 104-0045, Japan
5Fisheries Agency, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, 1-2-1 Kasumugaseki, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8907, Japan

ABSTRACT: For corals that establish symbioses with dinoflagellate Symbiodinium spp. at the larval stage or later through horizontal transmission, the ecological significance of the early uptake of algal symbionts remains unknown. It has been hypothesized that early uptake of symbionts is an advantage for long-distance dispersal. Here, we tested the hypothesis that early acquisition of symbionts enhances post-settlement survival. We used a cultured strain of clade A Symbiodinium that was isolated from wild Acropora spat as the algal symbiont. Symbiotic and aposymbiotic Acropora larvae were prepared in the laboratory and settled on experimental plates in the field. The survival of settlers was monitored for 15 mo. Our results showed that more larval-stage settlers harbouring symbionts survived than those without, even when there was no difference in the initial density of settled larvae. We analysed the Symbiodinium clades harboured by the corals at 1 mo after settlement, and found that clade A was less abundant in the corals that grew from aposymbiotic larvae than in those that developed from symbiotic larvae. There was also a marked difference in coral survival between aposymbiotic and symbiotic larvae over this period. The higher survival rate of ‘early uptake’ corals was more pronounced on shaded plates. These results suggest that the early uptake of specific symbionts enhances post-settlement survival in dark places such as reef crevices, which are sites commonly settled by coral larvae.

KEY WORDS: Coral–algal symbiosis · Horizontal transmission · Self-recruitment · Symbiodinium · Coral restoration

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Cite this article as: Suzuki G, Yamashita H, Kai S, Hayashibara T and others (2013) Early uptake of specific symbionts enhances the post-settlement survival of Acropora corals. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 494:149-158.

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