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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 544:281-286 (2016)  -  DOI:

Symbiont carbon and nitrogen assimilation in the CassiopeaSymbiodinium mutualism

Christopher J. Freeman1,*, Elizabeth W. Stoner2, Cole G. Easson3, Kenan O. Matterson3, David M. Baker

1Smithsonian Marine Station, 701 Seaway Drive, Fort Pierce, Florida 34949, USA
2Loxahatchee River District, 2500 Jupiter Park Drive, Jupiter, Florida 33458, USA
3Department of Biology, University of Alabama at Birmingham, 1300 University Blvd, Birmingham, Alabama 35294, USA
4The Swire Institute of Marine Science, School of Biological Sciences & Department of Earth Science, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, PR China
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Symbiotic interactions in the marine environment have long been represented by mutualisms between photosymbionts and benthic marine invertebrates like corals and sponges. Although ‘upside-down’ epibenthic jellyfish in the genus Cassiopea also derive a substantial metabolic benefit from abundant communities of the dinoflagellate symbiont Symbiodinium, comparatively little is known about the efficiency of carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) assimilation within the Cassiopea holobiont. Using standardized 6 h incubations with 13C- and 15N- enriched compounds, we assessed symbiont C and N assimilation in both oral arm and bell tissue of C. xamachana under light and dark conditions. Carbon fixation was light dependent and highest in the photosymbiont-rich oral arm tissue. In contrast, 15NO3 assimilation was light independent in both tissue types and was highest in bell tissue that was sparsely colonized by photosymbionts. This, coupled with higher bell tissue 15N enrichment under dark conditions, implicates non-photosynthetic microbes in Cassiopea N metabolism. This zonation of microbial activity may allow C. xamachana to simultaneously fix C and assimilate ambient or porewater N released during Cassiopea pumping activity. Although C. xamachana may utilize symbiont-derived N, lower 15N enrichment relative to C fixation suggests that Cassiopea may also rely on exogenous sources of N for growth. This study provides initial evidence that the efficiency of symbiont metabolism within Cassiopea jellyfish is comparable to, or exceeds, that of other common benthic marine invertebrates, supporting the contention that Cassiopea have an important role in the productivity and nutrient dynamics within their local environment.

KEY WORDS: Jellyfish · Symbiosis · Photosymbionts · Nutrient dynamics · Stable isotopes · Carbon fixation · 13C and 15N tracers

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Cite this article as: Freeman CJ, Stoner EW, Easson CG, Matterson KO, Baker DM (2016) Symbiont carbon and nitrogen assimilation in the CassiopeaSymbiodinium mutualism. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 544:281-286.

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