Coral Reefs

, Volume 25, Issue 4, pp 503–512 | Cite as

Patterns of association between Symbiodinium and members of the Montastraea annularis species complex on spatial scales ranging from within colonies to between geographic regions

  • Melissa Garren
  • Sheila M. Walsh
  • Adalgisa Caccone
  • Nancy Knowlton


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.


Coral Zooxanthellae Diversity Bleaching Caribbean 



We thank Javier Jara, Arcadio Castillo, Todd LaJeunesse, David Call, Monique Mendez, Eyda Gomez, Hiro Fukami, John Goeltz, David Kline, Melanie McField, Eden Garcia, Brian Young, and Oliver Balmer for their assistance with various aspects of the study. We thank the WWF-Protected Area Program, Yale’s Environmental Summer Internship Program, the Smithsonian Institution and the Scripps Institution for providing financial support, and Panama’s Dirección Nacional de Patrimonio Natural and La Autoridad Administrativa de CITES of the National Authority for the Environment (ANAM) for permission to collect and export coral samples.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Melissa Garren
    • 1
    • 2
  • Sheila M. Walsh
    • 2
  • Adalgisa Caccone
    • 1
  • Nancy Knowlton
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyYale UniversityNew HavenUSA
  2. 2.Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation, Scripps Institution of OceanographyUniversity of California San DiegoLa JollaUSA
  3. 3.Smithsonian Tropical Research InstitutePanamaRepublic of Panama

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