Inter-polyp genetic and physiological characterisation of Symbiodinium in an Acropora valida colony

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Journal Article
Marine Biology: international journal on life in oceans and coastal waters, 2007, 153 (2), pp. 225 - 234
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Corals harbouring genetically mixed communities of endosymbiotic algae (Symbiodinium) often show distribution patterns in accordance with differences in light climate across an individual colony. However, the physiology of these genetically characterised communities is not well understood. Single stranded conformation polymorphism (SSCP) and real time quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) analyses were used to examine the genetic diversity of the Symbiodinium community in hospite across an individual colony of Acropora valida at the spatial scale of single polyps. The physiological characteristics of the polyps were examined prior to sampling with a combined O2 microelectrode with a fibre-optic microprobe (combined sensor diameter 50-100 μm) enabling simultaneous measurements of O2 concentration, gross photosynthesis rate and photosystem II (PSII) quantum yield at the coral surface as a function of increasing irradiances. Both sun- and shade-adapted polyps were found to harbour either Symbiodinium clade C types alone or clades A and C simultaneously. Polyps were grouped in two categories according to (1) their orientation towardps light, or (2) their symbiont community composition. Physiological differences were not detected between sun- and shade-adapted polyps, but O2 concentration at 1,100 μmol photons m-2 s-1 was higher in polyps that harboured both clades A and C symbionts than in polyps that harboured clade C only. These results suggest that the acclimatisation of zooxanthellae of individual polyps of an A. valida colony to ambient light levels may not be the only determinant of the photosynthetic capacity of zooxanthellae. Here, we found that photosynthetic capacity is also likely to have a strong genetic basis and differs between genetically distinct Symbiodinium types.
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