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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 694:73-87 (2022)  -  DOI:

Interspecific differences in the response of coral trophic status to the decrease in symbiotic zooxanthellae in summer

Shendong Xu1,2,3, Zheng Men1, Kefu Yu1,2,3,*, Hanji Chen1, Hongyan Mo1, Biao Chen1, Zhenjun Qin1

1Guangxi Laboratory on the Study of Coral Reefs in the South China Sea, Coral Reef Research Centre of China, School of Marine Sciences, Guangxi University, Nanning 530004, PR China
2Southern Marine Science and Engineering Guangdong Laboratory (Zhuhai), Zhuhai 519000, PR China
3Laboratory for Marine Geology, Qingdao National Laboratory for Marine Science and Technology, Qingdao 266200, PR China
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Coral bleaching events are increasing in frequency and severity worldwide. From the perspective of energy supply, a decrease in symbiotic zooxanthellae density (ZD) during bleaching leads to a reduction in the amount of energy provided by photosynthesis to the coral host. However, there are still many unknowns about how corals maintain the stability of their energy supply when zooxanthellae decrease. In this study, 89 coral samples, including the relatively stress-tolerant massive Favia palauensis and Porites lutea and the relatively vulnerable branching Acropora millepora and Pocillopora damicornis, were collected from the Xisha Islands in the South China Sea in spring and summer 2020. The physiological parameters ZD, chl a, tissue biomass and lipid content were measured. The δ13C compositions of zooxanthellae and hosts were analyzed to explore the changes in trophic status in summer. Results show that the ZDs of A. millepora, P. damicornis, F. palauensis and P. lutea significantly decreased by 32, 29, 22 and 22%, respectively, in summer. P. lutea and F. palauensis maintained metabolic energy requirements depending largely on heterotrophy. A. millepora and P. damicornis were more dependent on consuming their own lipids. Our study shows that there are intergeneric differences in the energy maintenance mechanisms used to cope with decreases in ZD. We suggest that the higher heterotrophic ability of F. palauensis and P. lutea renders their trophic status more plastic than that of A. millepora and P. damicornis. This characteristic may potentially affect their bleaching resilience.

KEY WORDS: Coral · Trophic status · Stable carbon isotope · Seasonal changes · Interspecific differences

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Cite this article as: Xu S, Men Z, Yu K, Chen H, Mo H, Chen B, Qin Z (2022) Interspecific differences in the response of coral trophic status to the decrease in symbiotic zooxanthellae in summer. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 694:73-87.

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