Does Coral Disease Affect Symbiodinium? Investigating the Impacts of Growth Anomaly on Symbiont Photophysiology

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Abstract

Growth anomaly (GA) is a commonly observed coral disease that impairs biological functions of the affected tissue. GA is prevalent at Wai 'ōpae tide pools, southeast Hawai 'i Island. Here two distinct forms of this disease, Type A and Type B, affect the coral, Montipora capitata. While the effects of GA on biology and ecology of the coral host are beginning to be understood, the impact of this disease on the photophysiology of the dinoflagellate symbiont, Symbiodinium spp., has not been investigated. The GA clearly alters coral tissue structure and skeletal morphology and density. These tissue and skeletal changes are likely to modify not only the light micro-environment of the coral tissue, which has a direct impact on the photosynthetic potential of Symbiodinium spp., but also the physiological interactions within the symbiosis. This study utilized Pulse amplitude modulation fluorometry (PAM) to characterize the photophysiology of healthy and GA-affected M. capitata tissue. Overall, endosymbionts within GA-affected tissue exhibit reduced photochemical efficiency. Values of both F v /F m and ΔF/ F m ' were significantly lower (p < 0.01) in GA tissue compared to healthy and unaffected tissues. Tracking the photophysiology of symbionts over a diurnal time period enabled a comparison of symbiont responses to photosynthetically available radiation (PAR) among tissue conditions. Symbionts within GA tissue exhibited the lowest values of ΔF/F m ' as well as the highest pressure over photosystem II (p < 0.01). This study provides evidence that the symbionts within GA-affected tissue are photochemically compromised compared to those residing in healthy tissue. © 2013 Burns et al.

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Burns, J. H. R., Gregg, T. M., & Takabayashi, M. (2013). Does Coral Disease Affect Symbiodinium? Investigating the Impacts of Growth Anomaly on Symbiont Photophysiology. PLoS ONE, 8(8). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0072466

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