Marine Biology

, Volume 124, Issue 1, pp 147-155

First online:

Transmission of symbiotic dinoflagellates through the sexual cycle of the host scyphozoan Linuche unguiculata

  • M. K. MontgomeryAffiliated withDepartment of Biological Sciences, University of Southern California
  • , P. M. KremerAffiliated withDepartment of Biological Sciences, University of Southern California

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Intracellular symbiotic dinoflagellates are associated with the tropical scyphozoan Linuche unguiculata (Swartz, 1788) throughout all stages of the host's life cycle. During sexual reproduction, eggs are released in mucus strands that contain symbiotic dinoflagellates. Fertilization and development take place externally in the water column. Epifluorescence and transmission electron microscopy showed that unfertilized eggs did not contain intracellular algae, but that infection of the developing embryo was generally successful by the 128-cell stage (≃10 h after fertilization at 23° C). However, experiments with artificially provided Cellufluor-labeled algae demonstrated that older embryos and planulae could be infected by algae through at least 24 h post-fertilization, indicating that the L. unguiculata symbiosis represents a “semi-closed” system. This novel mode of symbiont acquisition results in most sexually-produced offspring becoming infected with maternally-transmitted algae during early development, but allows for acquisition of non-maternally-provided algae later in development. Most of the algal symbionts during the early stages of embryonic and larval development are located within ectodermal cells. This is in contrast to the other life-cycle stages of L. unguiculata (i.e., scyphistoma, medusa, ephyra), where symbionts are found within the gastrodermis of the host.