, Volume 145, Issue 2, pp 329-337
Date: 06 Mar 2004

Release of zooxanthellae with intact photosynthetic activity by the coral Galaxea fascicularis in response to high temperature stress

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Damage to zooxanthellae photosynthetic apparatus has been proposed to be the underlying mechanism of coral bleaching, but how the expulsion of zooxanthellae is triggered is still not understood. The present study compared the photosystem II (PSII) functioning and overall photosynthesis of retained and released zooxanthellae from the reef-building coral Galaxea fascicularis exposed to high temperature stress. The use of pulse-amplitude-modulated (PAM) fluorometry for isolated zooxanthellae was validated and used to measure photosynthesis. There was no significant difference in PSII functioning and the overall photosynthesis between retained zooxanthellae, which were isolated immediately after stress treatment, and those released from the coral exposed to either 30 or 32°C, while the zooxanthellae population released at 28°C showed significantly lower PSII functioning than those retained in the polyps. The release of healthy-looking zooxanthellae by polyps exposed to elevated temperatures was significantly higher than those in the control (28°C). Higher release of undischarged cnidae, indicative of host cell necrosis or detachment, was observed in 32°C treatments. These findings indicate that the zooxanthellae released in 30 or 32°C treatments exhibited normal morphology and intact photosynthetic activity. The present results strongly suggest that the release of zooxanthellae from G. fascicularis at 30 or 32°C is a non-selective process with respect to the zooxanthellar PSII functioning and thus the host seems to be the first partner to be physiologically affected in temperature-induced bleaching.

Communicated by T. Ikeda, Hakodate