Coral Reefs

, Volume 27, Issue 1, pp 219–226 | Cite as

Acquisition of symbiotic dinoflagellates (Symbiodinium) by juveniles of the coral Acropora longicyathus

  • M. del C. Gómez-Cabrera
  • J. C. Ortiz
  • W. K. W. Loh
  • S. Ward
  • O. Hoegh-Guldberg


Scleractinian corals may acquire Symbiodinium from their parents (vertically) or from the environment (horizontally). In the present study, adult colonies of the coral Acropora longicyathus from One Tree Island (OTI) on the southern Great Barrier Reef (Australia) acquired two distinct varieties of symbiotic dinoflagellates (Symbiodinium) from the environment. Adult colonies had either Symbiodinium from clade C (86.7%) or clade A (5.3%), or a mixture of both clades A and C (8.0% of all colonies). In contrast, all 10-day-old juveniles were associated with Symbiodinium from clade A, while 83-day-old colonies contained clades A, C and D even though they were growing at the same location. Symbiodinium from clade A were dominant in both 10- and 83-day-old juveniles (99 and 97% of all recruits, respectively), while clade D was also found in 31% of 83-day-old juveniles. Experimental manipulation also revealed that parental association (with clade A or C), or the location within the OTI reef, did not influence which clade of symbiont was acquired by juvenile corals. The differences between the genetic identity of populations of Symbiodinium resident in juveniles and adult A. longicyathus suggest that ontogenetic changes in the symbiosis may occur during the development of scleractinian corals. Whether or not these changes are due to host selective processes or differences in the physical environment associated with juvenile versus adult colonies remains to be determined.


Symbiodinium Acropora longicyathus Coral recruit Symbiont acquisition Symbiosis Dinoflagellate 



The authors would like to thank Maruricio Rodriguez-Lanetty for comments on early versions of the manuscript. Our thanks also extend to two anonymous reviewers whose comments greatly improved the quality of the final manuscript. We are grateful to the staff at One Tree Island Research Station, special thanks to Pam and Konrad Beinsen and Ali Marshall and Matt Smith, for their support in the field. This work was funded by the Australian Research Council Centre for Excellence in Coral Reef Studies ( as well as the Coral Reef Targeted Research Project ( to Ove Hoegh-Guldberg and by a Terry Walker Student Research Fellowship to Maria Gomez Cabrera from the Australian Coral Reef Society.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. del C. Gómez-Cabrera
    • 1
  • J. C. Ortiz
    • 1
  • W. K. W. Loh
    • 1
  • S. Ward
    • 1
  • O. Hoegh-Guldberg
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Marine StudiesThe University of QueenslandSt LuciaAustralia

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