Soft corals are significant DMSP producers in tropical and temperate reefs
Corals synthesise large quantities of the sulphur metabolite dimethylsulphoniopropionate (DMSP), which contributes to key roles in coral reef ecology including the capacity of corals to withstand various stressors. While closely related to scleractinian corals and often occupying similar ecological niche space, it is currently poorly defined to what extent soft corals produce DMSP. We, therefore, examined DMSP content within four key species of soft coral in February and July–August of 2017, including two temperate species from Sydney Harbour (Erythropodium hicksoni, Capnella gaboensis) and two tropical species from the Great Barrier Reef (Sinularia sp., Sarcophyton sp.). We compared DMSP content of these soft coral species to that of commonly occurring temperate (Plesiastrea versipora) and tropical (Acropora aspera) scleractinian coral species. DMSP content was normalised to coral protein content, with soft coral DMSP content highly variable across species and locations [56–539 nmol (mg protein)−1], and lower than for the tropical [1242–4710 nmol (mg protein)−1], but not temperate [465–1984 nmol (mg protein)−1] scleractinian species. Further comparison with previously published values demonstrated that soft coral DMSP content falls within the “low–mid range” of scleractinian corals. Notably, DMSP content was also higher in summer samples than winter samples for the scleractinian corals, but did not differ between seasons for soft corals. Such contrasting dynamics of DMSP production by soft corals compared to scleractinian corals indicates that the regulation of DMSP content differs between these two important benthic cnidarian groups, potentially as a consequence of dissimilar ecophysiological roles for this compound.
We thank the Heron Island Research Station staff for their technical assistance and access to facilities and Elisabeth Deschaseaux for her assistance of the data analysis. In addition, we value the sampling assistance of Samantha Goyen, Emma Camp, Matthieu Pernice and Audrey Commault. Corals were collected under the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park permit P15/0042-1.1 issued to Emma Camp/David Suggett, and Department of Primary Industries permit G15/37538.1 issued to Samantha Goyen/David Suggett. This research was supported by Australian Research Council Grants DP160100271 and FT130100202 to D. J. S., and DP140101045 and FT130100218 to J. R. S. Finally, we would like to thank the reviewers for their valuable suggestions to help improve the manuscript into its current state.
Compliance with ethical standards
All applicable international, national and/or institutional guidelines for sampling, care and experimental use of organisms for the study have been followed and all necessary approvals have been obtained.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
- Daly M, Brugler MR, Cartwright P, Collins AG et al (2007) The phylum Cnidaria: a review of phylogenetic patterns and diversity 300 years after Linnaeus. Zootaxa 1668:127–182Google Scholar
- Fabricius KE (1998) Reef invasion by soft corals: which taxa and which habitats? In: Proceedings of the Australian Coral Reef Society 75th Anniversary Conference. School of Marine Science, University of Queensland, Brisbane, pp 77–90Google Scholar
- Keller MD, Korjeff-Bellows W (1996) Physiological aspects of the production of dimeyhtlsulfoniopropionate (DMSP) by marine phytoplankton. In: Keine RP, Visscher PT, Keller MD, Kirst GO (eds) Biological and environmental chemistry of DMSP and related sulfonium compounds. Plenum Press, New York, pp 131–142CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Swan HB, Jones GB, Deschaseaux E (2012) Dimethylsulfide, climate and coral reef ecosystems. In: Proceedings of the 12th international coral reef symposium, Cairns, 9–13 July, James Cook University, Townsville, QldGoogle Scholar