Flexibility in Algal Endosymbioses Shapes Growth in Reef Corals

  title={Flexibility in Algal Endosymbioses Shapes Growth in Reef Corals},
  author={Angela F. Little and Madeleine J. H. van Oppen and Bette L. Willis},
  pages={1492 - 1494}
The relation between corals and their algal endosymbionts has been a key to the success of scleractinian (stony) corals as modern reef-builders, but little is known about early stages in the establishment of the symbiosis. Here, we show that initial uptake of zooxanthellae by juvenile corals during natural infection is nonspecific (a potentially adaptive trait); the association is flexible and characterized by a change in (dominant) zooxanthella strains over time; and growth rates of… 

Bleaching Resistance and the Role of Algal Endosymbionts

Evidence for shuffling versus switching under thermal stress and how coral--algal symbioses are likely to respond to ocean warming associated with climate change are discussed.

Zooxanthellae: The Yellow Symbionts Inside Animals

Corals are associated with photosymbiotic unicellular algae and cyanobacteria and the advantage of symbiosis is based on adaptations of transport and the exchange of nutritional resources, which allow it to be spread all over the tropical and some temperate oceans.

A community change in the algal endosymbionts of a scleractinian coral following a natural bleaching event: field evidence of acclimatization

Field evidence is shown of a dramatic change in the symbiont community of Acropora millepora, a common and widespread Indo-Pacific hard coral species, after a natural bleaching event in early 2006 in the Keppel Islands.

The host transcriptome remains unaltered during the establishment of coral–algal symbioses

The data suggest that successful coral–algal symbioses depend mainly on the symbionts' ability to enter the host in a stealth manner rather than a more active response from the coral host.

Physiological diversity among sympatric, conspecific endosymbionts of coral (Cladocopium C1acro) from the Great Barrier Reef

The extent of genetically fixed differences in the in vitro acclimatory response of four conspecific strains of the common coral endosymbiont, Cladocopium C1acro, are described and previously undocumented physiological diversity among strains of a single Symbiodiniaceae species is demonstrated.

Understanding the coral holobiont through science and scuba

Recent advances in scuba- based research on the coral holobiont are reviewed that have expanded the understanding of coral-algal and coral-microbe relationships as well as the role of the coral host in these interactions.

Conservation of Symbiodinium spp. clade in the coral Pocillopora damicornis during the 2014 mass-bleaching event

Observation of Pocillopora damicornis colonies tracked over a complete bleaching to recovery cycle during the 2014 mass coral bleaching event in Hawai’i suggests additional factors may be involved in thermal-stress acclimation and adaptation in this coral.

Symbiont genotype influences holobiont response to increased temperature

This work examined the potential for adaptation of the upside-down jellyfish Cassiopea xamachana to increased temperature via evolution of its microalgal endosymbiont, Symbiodinium microadriaticum, and quantified trait variation among five algal genotypes in response to three temperatures and fitness of hosts infected with each genotype.

Experimental Evolution in Coral Photosymbionts as a Tool to Increase Thermal Tolerance

The long-term selected Symbiodinium culture replicates showed faster growth rates under short-term, acute heat stress, and in some cases higher photosynthetic efficiencies, compared to wild-type populations (WT).

Microbial invasion of the Caribbean by an Indo-Pacific coral zooxanthella

Evidence is presented that a stress-tolerant “zooxanthella” from the Indo-Pacific Ocean, Symbiodinium trenchii, has rapidly spread to coral communities across the Greater Caribbean, and suggests that these new symbioses are maladapted.



Flexibility and Specificity in Coral-Algal Symbiosis: Diversity, Ecology, and Biogeography of Symbiodinium

  • A. Baker
  • Environmental Science, Geography
  • 2003
Unusual symbionts normally found only in larval stages, marginal environments, uncommon host taxa, or at latitudinal extremes may prove critical in understanding the long-term resilience of coral reef ecosystems to environmental perturbation.

A Molecular Genetic Classification of Zooxanthellae and the Evolution of Animal-Algal Symbioses

Closely related algae were found in dissimilar hosts, suggesting that animal and algal lineages have maintained a flexible evolutionary relation with each other.

Intraspecific diversity and ecological zonation in coral-algal symbiosis.

  • R. RowanN. Knowlton
  • Environmental Science
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
  • 1995
Habitat specificity provides ecological explanations for the previously documented poor concordance between host and symbiont phylogenies and the otherwise surprising lack of direct, maternal transmission of symbionts in many species of hosts.

Repopulation of Zooxanthellae in the Caribbean Corals Montastraea annularis and M. faveolata following Experimental and Disease-Associated Bleaching

It is suggested that zooxanthellae in Montastraea range from fugitive opportunists and stress-tolerant generalists to narrowly adapted specialists (Symbiodinium B and C), and may undergo succession.

Ribosomal RNA sequences and the diversity of symbiotic dinoflagellates (zooxanthellae).

  • R. RowanD. Powers
  • Environmental Science, Biology
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
  • 1992
Surprisingly, small ribosomal subunit RNA diversity within the genus Symbiodinium is comparable to that observed among different orders of nonsymbiotic dinoflagellates and reinforces the conclusion that Symbiod inium-like zooxanthellae represent a collection of distinct species.


This article considers only the phenomenon of algal loss, the loss of pigment associated with their symbiotic algae (zooxanthellae) in organisms such as hard and soft corals, giant clams, and sea anemones.

Landscape ecology of algal symbionts creates variation in episodes of coral bleaching

It is found that the ecologically dominant Caribbean corals Montastraea annularis and M. faveolata can act as hosts to dynamic, multi-species communities of Symbiodinium, implying that physiological acclimatization is not the only mechanism by which corals cope with environmental heterogeneity.

Patterns of coral–dinoflagellate associations in Acropora: significance of local availability and physiology of Symbiodinium strains and host–symbiont selectivity

P phylogenetic relationships between Symbiodinium isolates from a wide range of Acropora species are determined and the algal genotypes are plotted onto a molecular phylogeny of 28 Acropore species, using the same samples for the host and symbiont genotyping.

Diversity and community structure of symbiotic dinoflagellates from Caribbean coral reefs

A comparison of the symbiont types found in field-collected hosts with types previously cultured from these hosts indicates the existence of low density or "background"-symbiont populations and cryptic, potentially non-mutualistic types in some hosts.


RFLP data suggest that, in most cases, cultures are a subset of the original in hospite population, and reexamination of the literature revealed examples of zooxanthella cultures being nonrepresentative of in Hospite populations.