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Loss of Symbiodinium from bleached soft corals Sarcophyton ehrenbergi, Sinularia sp. and Xenia sp.
journal contributionposted on 06.12.2017, 00:00 by Kevin StrycharKevin Strychar, M Coates, P Sammarco, Terrence PivaTerrence Piva, P Scott
The deleterious effects of temperature-induced coral bleaching, a process by which corals lose their endosymbiotic algae (zooxanthellae; genus Symbiodinium) primarily at temperatures above mean yearly maximums, has not been well described for alcyonacean soft corals (Coelenterata, Octocorallia). The study of Symbiodinium cells lost from Sarcophyton ehrenbergi, Sinularia sp., and Xenia sp., which have not been compared in bleaching studies, indicate that the soft coral S. ehrenbergi released the greatest number of symbiont cells, however, it was less susceptible to heat stress surviving temperatures of 34 C for >39 h. Sinularia sp. showed intermediate levels of bleaching tolerance to elevated temperatures, surviving prolonged exposures at 32 C, but dying within 24 h at 34 C. Xenia sp., however, was the most vulnerable to high heat stress maximally releasing Symbiodinium at temperatures <30 C. This evidence indicates that Xenia sp. is even more susceptible to elevated temperatures than Acropora spp., previously reported to be the most vulnerable coral species to elevated temperature-induced bleaching. Molecular analysis showed that the more resistant soft coral species (S. ehrenbergi) had the same type of Symbiodinium (clade C) as less resistant soft corals (Xenia sp.). In comparison to scleractinian corals collected from the same region that show similar bleaching resistance to high temperatures (e.g. Porities solida—more robust; Favites complanata—moderate resistance; Acropora hyacinthus—less robust), all scleractinian corals were symbiotic with Symbiodinium from clade C. A. hyacinthus, however, was found to possess multiple symbionts (clades B and C), and this represents a first report of Clade B in any Acropora species.