, Volume 143, Issue 1, pp 111-120
Date: 30 Apr 2003

Symbiodinium sp. associations in the gorgonian Pseudopterogorgia elisabethae in the Bahamas: high levels of genetic variability and population structure in symbiotic dinoflagellates

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Little is known concerning the fine-scale diversity, population structure, and biogeography for Symbiodinium spp. populations inhabiting particular invertebrate species, including the gorgonian corals, which are prevalent members of reef communities in the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean, and the western Atlantic. This study examined the Symbiodinium sp. clade B symbionts hosted by the Caribbean gorgonian Pseudopterogorgia elisabethae (Bayer). A total of 575 colonies of P. elisabethae were sampled in 1995 and 1998–2000 from 12 populations lying along an ~450 km transect in the Bahamas and their Symbiodinium sp. clade B symbionts genotyped at two polymorphic dinucleotide microsatellite loci. Twenty-three unique, two-locus genotypes were identified in association with these P. elisabethae colonies. Most colonies hosted only a single Symbiodinium sp. clade B genotype; however, in some instances (n=25), two genotypes were harbored simultaneously. For 10 of the 12 populations, 66–100% of the P. elisabethae colonies hosted the same symbiont genotype. Added to this, in 9 of the 12 populations, a Symbiodinium sp. clade B genotype was either unique to a population or found infrequently in other populations. This distribution of Symbiodinium sp. clade B genotypes resulted in statistically significant (P<0.05 or <0.001) differentiation in 62 of 66 pairwise comparisons of P. elisabethae populations. Tests of linkage disequilibrium suggested that a combination of clonal propagation of the haploid phase and recombination is responsible for maintaining these distinct Symbiodinium sp. clade B populations.

Communicated by J.P. Grassle, New Brunswick