Coral endosymbionts (Symbiodiniaceae) emit species-specific volatilomes that shift when exposed to thermal stress

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Scientific Reports, 2019, 9 (1)
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© 2019, The Author(s). Biogenic volatile organic compounds (BVOCs) influence organism fitness by promoting stress resistance and regulating trophic interactions. Studies examining BVOC emissions have predominantly focussed on terrestrial ecosystems and atmospheric chemistry – surprisingly, highly productive marine ecosystems remain largely overlooked. Here we examined the volatilome (total BVOCs) of the microalgal endosymbionts of reef invertebrates, Symbiodiniaceae. We used GC-MS to characterise five species (Symbiodinium linucheae, Breviolum psygmophilum, Durusdinium trenchii, Effrenium voratum, Fugacium kawagutii) under steady-state growth. A diverse range of 32 BVOCs were detected (from 12 in D. trenchii to 27 in S. linucheae) with halogenated hydrocarbons, alkanes and esters the most common chemical functional groups. A thermal stress experiment on thermally-sensitive Cladocopium goreaui and thermally-tolerant D. trenchii significantly affected the volatilomes of both species. More BVOCs were detected in D. trenchii following thermal stress (32 °C), while fewer BVOCs were recorded in stressed C. goreaui. The onset of stress caused dramatic increases of dimethyl-disulfide (98.52%) in C. goreaui and nonanoic acid (99.85%) in D. trenchii. This first volatilome analysis of Symbiodiniaceae reveals that both species-specificity and environmental factors govern the composition of BVOC emissions among the Symbiodiniaceae, which potentially have, as yet unexplored, physiological and ecological importance in shaping coral reef community functioning.
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