Coral Reefs

, Volume 25, Issue 4, pp 515–519 | Cite as

Highly stable symbioses among western Atlantic brooding corals

  • Daniel J. ThornhillEmail author
  • William K. Fitt
  • Gregory W. Schmidt


The reproductive mode of corals largely determines how zooxanthellae (Symbiodinium spp.) are acquired. Typically, broadcast spawning corals obtain symbionts from the surrounding environment, whereas most brooders transfer symbionts from maternal parent to offspring. Brooding corals are therefore predicted to harbor stable communities of Symbiodinium. This study documents the associations between Symbiodinium spp. and brooding corals in response to seasonal environmental fluctuations. Between March 2002 and December 2005, endosymbiont identity was determined seasonally from replicate colonies (n = 6) of three brooding species, Agaricia agaricites, Porites astreoides and Siderastrea radians, from shallow environments (1–4 m) of the Florida Keys and Bahamas. Symbionts were identified via denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) of the internal transcribed spacer 2 (ITS2) region. No change was detected in the Symbiodinium communities harbored within these brooding colonies. Additionally, no change in symbiosis was observed through a moderate bleaching event, thereby demonstrating that some bleached corals recover without changing symbionts.


Brooding corals Coral bleaching Symbiodinium Vertical transmission Zooxanthellae 



This research was funded by NSF (9906976 and 0137007) and the NOAA National Undersea Research Program through the Caribbean Marine Research Center on Lee Stocking Island in the Bahamas. An NSF Graduate Research Fellowship to D. J. Thornhill also supported this work. This project would not have been possible without the help of Dustin Kemp, Geoff Chilcoat, Tom Shannon, and Jennifer McCabe who assisted in sample collection. Jim Hendee, Louis Florit, NOAA and the CHAMP program graciously provided sea surface temperature data from Lee Stocking Island. We would also like to thank two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and suggestions.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel J. Thornhill
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • William K. Fitt
    • 2
  • Gregory W. Schmidt
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesAuburn UniversityAuburnUSA
  2. 2.Institute of EcologyUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA
  3. 3.Department of Plant BiologyUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA

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