Trace metals in coral tissue and skeleton have been investigated in various ways since the early seventies. More recently it has been suggested that the symbiotic zooxanthellae may play an important role in the accumulation and regulation of trace metals. Furthermore gamete development and mucus production may influence the metal accumulation and loss in corals. Many studies have attempted to use the annual growth bands in coral skeletons to investigate historical pollution events. However the relationship between the metal concentrations in the surrounding environment and the incorporation of this into coral skeleton is not well understood. This paper explains a method for investigating metal loads in coral tissue, zooxanthellae and skeleton. Furthermore, it presents new information suggesting that zooxanthellae accumulate most metals (Al, Fe, As, Mn, Ni, Cu, Zn, Cd, Pb) in greater concentrations than the coral tissue. Coral skeletons had consistently lower metal concentration than the zooxanthellae, tissue and gametes. The loss of zooxanthellae during stress events may have a significant contribution to the total metal loads in corals. The use of corals as biomonitors should carefully factor in zooxanthellae densities and gamete development before conclusions are drawn. © 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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