Coral Reefs

, 30:1089 | Cite as

Changes in scleractinian coral Seriatopora hystrix morphology and its endocellular Symbiodinium characteristics along a bathymetric gradient from shallow to mesophotic reef

  • O. Nir
  • D. F. Gruber
  • S. Einbinder
  • S. Kark
  • D. TchernovEmail author


The algae living endosymbiotically within coral are thought to increase algal pigmentation with increasing depth to capture the diminishing light. Here, we follow distribution of the hermatypic coral Seriatopora hystrix along a 60-m bathymetric gradient in the Gulf of Eilat, Red Sea, to study coral ecophysiology and response to light regimes. Combining work on coral morphology, pigment content and genotyping of the photosymbiont, we found that total chlorophyll concentration per zooxanthellae cell and the dark- and light-acclimated quantum yield of photosystem II did not vary significantly along the 60-m gradient. However, the chlorophyll a/c ratio increased with depth. This suggests that the symbiotic algae in S. hystrix possess a mechanism for acclimatization or adaptation that differs from previously described pathways. The accepted photoacclimatory process involves an increase in chlorophyll content per alga as light intensity decreases. Based on corallite and branch morphology, this research suggests that S. hystrix has two depth-dependent ecophenotypes. Above 10 m depth, S. hystrix exhibits sturdier colony configurations with thick branches, while below 30 m depth, colonies are characterized by thin branches and the presence of a larger polyp area. Between 10 and 30 m depth, both ecophenotypes are present, suggesting that corallite morphology may act as another axis of photoacclimation with depth.


Scleractinian coral Symbiodinium sp. Deep reef Morphology Photosynthesis Seriatopora hystrix Chlorophyll a/c ratio 



We thank K. Zendbank for assisting in molecular work and the Interuniversity Institute for Marine Sciences and staff in Eilat, Israel, for contributing to field studies. We also thank M. Kiflawi and B. Goodman-Tchernov for their shared insight and E. Brokovitch for participating in the technical dives. The research was supported by the Israeli Science Foundation grant # 981/05, the Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung, Germany, grant # 1923–1300 and the US National Science Foundation grant # 0920572.

Supplementary material

338_2011_801_MOESM1_ESM.eps (2.2 mb)
Supplementary data Fig. 1. Density of colonies at the Dekel site (gray) and in the KATZA oil terminal reef (black). Density was surveyed along all bathymetric distributions of the species at each site. Mean and confidence intervals of 95% are presented. Dotted line indicates average photosynthetically active radiation during 2005. n = 501 colonies (EPS 2281 kb)
338_2011_801_MOESM2_ESM.doc (31 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (DOC 31 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • O. Nir
    • 1
    • 2
  • D. F. Gruber
    • 3
  • S. Einbinder
    • 1
    • 2
  • S. Kark
    • 2
  • D. Tchernov
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Interuniversity Institute for Marine Sciences in EilatEilatIsrael
  2. 2.Department of Evolution, Systematics and EcologyHebrew University of JerusalemJerusalemIsrael
  3. 3.Department of Natural SciencesCity University of New York, Baruch CollegeNew YorkUSA

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