, Volume 151, Issue 4, pp 1215-1223
Date: 11 Jan 2007

Three party symbiosis: acoelomorph worms, corals and unicellular algal symbionts in Eilat (Red Sea)

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Abstract

Epizoic worms were found to occur on certain coral colonies from reefs off the coast of Eilat (Red Sea). We identified 14 coral species infested by acoelomorph worms at a depth range of 2–50 m. The host corals were all zooxanthellate and included both massive and branching stony corals and a soft coral. Worms from all hosts were identified as belonging to the genus Waminoa and contained two distinct algal symbionts differing in size. The smaller one was identified as Symbiodinium sp. and the larger one is presumed to belong to the genus Amphidinium. Worm-infested colonies of the soft coral, Stereonephthya cundabiluensis, lacked a mucus layer and exhibited distinct cell microvilli, a phenotype not present in colonies lacking Waminoa sp. In most cases, both cnidarian and Acoelomorph hosts displayed high specificity for genetically distinctive Symbiodinium spp. These observations show that the epizoic worms do not acquire their symbionts from the “host” coral.

Communicated by P.W. Sammarco, Chauvin.