Coral symbiotic algae calcify ex hospite in partnership with bacteria

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Journal Article
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 2015, 112 (19), pp. 6158 - 6163
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© 2015, National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved. Dinoflagellates of the genus Symbiodinium are commonly recognized as invertebrate endosymbionts that are of central importance for the functioning of coral reef ecosystems. However, the endosymbiotic phase within Symbiodinium life history is inherently tied to a more cryptic free-living (ex hospite) phase that remains largely unexplored. Here we show that free-living Symbiodinium spp. in culture commonly form calcifying bacterial-algal communities that produce aragonitic spherulites and encase the dinoflagellates as endolithic cells. This process is driven by Symbiodinium photosynthesis but occurs only in partnership with bacteria. Our findings not only place dinoflagellates on the map of microbial-algal organomineralization processes but also point toward an endolithic phase in the Symbiodinium life history, a phenomenon that may provide new perspectives on the biology and ecology of Symbiodinium spp. and the evolutionary history of the coral- dinoflagellate symbiosis.
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