Patterns of association between Symbiodinium and members of the Montastraea annularis species complex on spatial scales ranging from within colonies to between geographic regions
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- Garren, M., Walsh, S.M., Caccone, A. et al. Coral Reefs (2006) 25: 503. doi:10.1007/s00338-006-0146-1
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Patterns of associations between coral colonies and the major clades of zooxanthellae can vary across scales ranging from individual colonies to widely separated geographic regions. This is exemplified in this study of the Montastraea annularis species complex from six sites on the Mesoamerican Reef, Belize and nine sites in the Bocas del Toro archipelago, Panama. Restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) analysis of small subunit ribosomal DNA (SSU rDNA) was used to identify the zooxanthellae. In Belize (M. annularis), Symbiodinium B (79% of the colonies), Symbiodinium A, and Symbiodinium C were observed. In Panama (primarily M. franksi, but also M. annularis and M.faveolata), there was greater diversity and evenness with Symbiodinium A, B, C, C′ (a new symbiont) and D all being common in at least some host/habitat combinations. Non-metric multidimensional scaling ordinations showed that distribution patterns of symbionts across sites are best explained by enclosure (relative influence of open ocean vs. coastal water) and total suspended solids. Because members of clade D are known to be temperature resistant and Symbiodinium C′ was found in environments characterized by high sedimentation, these Panamanian reefs may have importance from a management perspective as reservoirs of corals better able to tolerate human impacts.