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MEPS
Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 587:117-127 (2018)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps12441

Temperature and Symbiodinium physiology affect the establishment and development of symbiosis in corals

Vivian R. Cumbo1,2,3,*, Madeleine J. H. van Oppen2,4, Andrew H. Baird

1Australian Research Council, Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland 4811, Australia
2Australian Institute of Marine Science PMB 3, Townsville MC, Queensland 4810, Australia
3Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, Sydney, New South Wales 2109, Australia
4School of Biosciences, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria 3010, Australia
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Symbiotic associations are ubiquitous in nature. In fact, all eukaryotic species harbour microbial symbionts that are essential for their health. Often overlooked, symbiosis is an important factor when predicting how organisms might respond to climate change. Some associations are so tight-knit that rapid changes in the environment can lead to extinction of one or both partners. Alternatively, the ability to switch to more stress-tolerant partners can allow for rapid adjustment to environmental change, such as increases in host range size. Here, we outline a mechanism by which symbiotic species that acquire their symbionts anew each generation might adapt to global warming via transgenerational, environmentally mediated changes in host-symbiont partnerships. At temperatures approximating climate change conditions at the end of the century, the larvae of 2 common scleractinian corals established symbiosis with a novel and more thermo-tolerant symbiont. Conversely, the establishment of symbiosis with heat-sensitive symbionts was greatly reduced. Transgenerational change in symbionts is a mechanism by which organisms that engage in flexible mutualistic relationships can rapidly adjust to a changing climate.


KEY WORDS: Acclimatisation · Acropora millepora · Acropora monticulosa · Coral reefs · Climate change · Larval ecology · Symbiosis


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Cite this article as: Cumbo VR, van Oppen MJH, Baird AH (2018) Temperature and Symbiodinium physiology affect the establishment and development of symbiosis in corals. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 587:117-127. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps12441

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