Coral Reefs

, Volume 24, Issue 3, pp 463–474 | Cite as

Stress response of two coral species in the Kavaratti atoll of the Lakshadweep Archipelago, India

  • Shashank Harithsa
  • Chandralata Raghukumar
  • S. G. Dalal


Frequent occurrences of coral bleaching and the ensuing damage to coral reefs have generated interest in documenting stress responses that precede bleaching. The objective of this study was to assess and compare physiological changes in healthy, semi-bleached and totally bleached colonies of two coral species, Porites lutea and Acropora formosa, during a natural bleaching event in the Lakshadweep Archipelago in the Arabian Sea to determine the traits that will be useful in the diagnosis of coral health. In April 2002, three “health conditions” were observed as “appearing healthy,” “semi-bleached” and “bleached” specimens for two dominant and co-occurring coral species in these islands. Changes in the pigment composition, zooxanthellae density (ZD), mitotic index (MI) of zooxanthellae, RNA/DNA ratios and protein profile in the two coral species showing different levels of bleaching in the field were compared to address the hypothesis of no difference in health condition between species and bleaching status. The loss in chlorophyll (chl) a, chl c and ZD in the transitional stage of semi-bleaching in the branched coral A. formosa was 80, 75 and 80%, respectively. The losses were much less in the massive coral P. lutea, being 20, 50 and 25%, respectively. The decrease in zooxanthellar density and chl a was accompanied by an increased MI of zooxanthellae and RNA/DNA ratios in both the species. There was an increase in accumulation of lipofuscin granules in partially bleached P. lutea tissue, which is an indication of cellular senescence. Multivariate statistical analyses showed that colonies of P. lutea ranked in different health conditions differed significantly in chl a, chl c, ZD, RNA/DNA ratios, and protein concentrations, whereas in A. formosa chl a, chl c, chl a/c, phaeopigments and MI contributed to the variance between health conditions.


Lakshadweep islands Porites lutea Acropora formosa Bleaching Zooxanthellae density Mitotic index Lipofuscin granules 



We thank Dr. Ismail Koya, Deputy Director of the Department of Science and Technology at Kavaratti for the facilities provided during this study. We also thank Dr. E. Desa, Director of our Institute for help and encouragement. The senior author (SH) and the corresponding author (CRK) gratefully acknowledge the research fellowship and the research grant offered, respectively, by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF, New Delhi). We are also thankful to P. Koya, SPORTS-Lakshadweep for helping in the collection of samples and Ms. Jane Paul, NIO for suggestions in histological techniques. We wish to thank Dr. S. Raghukumar and two anonymous referees for critical evaluation of the manuscript. This is NIO’s contribution No. 3946.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shashank Harithsa
    • 1
  • Chandralata Raghukumar
    • 1
  • S. G. Dalal
    • 1
  1. 1.Biological Oceanography DivisionNational Institute of OceanographyDona PaulaIndia

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