Coral Reefs

, Volume 29, Issue 4, pp 989–1003 | Cite as

Local endemicity and high diversity characterise high-latitude coral–Symbiodinium partnerships

  • L. C. Wicks
  • E. Sampayo
  • J. P. A. Gardner
  • S. K. Davy


Obligate symbiotic dinoflagellates (Symbiodinium) residing within the tissues of most reef invertebrates are important in determining the tolerance range of their host. Coral communities living at high latitudes experience wide fluctuations in environmental conditions and thus provide an ideal system to gain insights into the range within which the symbiotic relationship can be sustained. Further, understanding whether and how symbiont communities associated with high-latitude coral reefs are different from their tropical counterparts will provide clues to the potential of corals to cope with marginal or changing conditions. However, little is known of the host and symbiont partnerships at high latitudes. Symbiodinium diversity and specificity of high-latitude coral communities were explored using denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (PCR-DGGE) analysis of the internal transcribed spacer regions (ITS1 and ITS2) of the ribosomal DNA at Lord Howe Island (31°S; Australia), and the Kermadec Islands (29°S; New Zealand). All but one host associated with clade C Symbiodinium, the exception being a soft coral (Capnella sp.) that contained Symbiodinium B1. Besides ‘host-generalist’ Symbiodinium types C1 and C3, approximately 72% of the Symbiodinium identified were novel C types, and zonation of symbionts in relation to environmental parameters such as depth and turbidity was evident in certain host species. The high-latitude Symbiodinium communities showed little overlap and relatively high diversity compared with communities sampled on the tropical Great Barrier Reef. Although host specificity was maintained in certain species, others shared symbionts and this potential reduction of fidelity at high-latitude locations may be the result of locally challenging and highly variable environmental conditions.


Symbiodinium Lord Howe Island Coral Marginal High-latitude 



The authors thank Prof. O. Hoegh-Guldberg (CMS, UQ) for providing laboratory facilities and equipment; NSW Marine Parks Authority for permits; Victoria University of Wellington for financial support; Brian Busteed, Dan Logan, Carden Wallace, Peter Harrison, Ian Kerr and Sallyann Gudge for their assistance in the field, and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments. A Commonwealth PhD Scholarship supported L.C.W.

Supplementary material

338_2010_649_MOESM1_ESM.doc (3.7 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 3807 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • L. C. Wicks
    • 1
    • 2
  • E. Sampayo
    • 3
    • 4
  • J. P. A. Gardner
    • 1
  • S. K. Davy
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Marine Environmental & Economic Research, School of Biological SciencesVictoria University of WellingtonWellingtonNew Zealand
  2. 2.Centre for Marine Biodiversity & Biotechnology, School of Life SciencesHeriot Watt UniversityEdinburgh, ScotlandUK
  3. 3.Centre for Marine StudiesThe University of QueenslandSt. LuciaAustralia
  4. 4.Department of BiologyPennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA

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