Coral Reefs

, Volume 32, Issue 4, pp 909–921 | Cite as

Physiological acclimation to elevated temperature in a reef-building coral from an upwelling environment

Report

Abstract

Recent work has found that pocilloporid corals from regions characterized by unstable temperatures, such as those exposed to periodic upwelling, display a remarkable degree of phenotypic plasticity. In order to understand whether important reef builders from these upwelling reefs remain physiologically uncompromised at temperatures they will experience in the coming decades as a result of global climate change, a long-term elevated temperature experiment was conducted with Pocillopora damicornis specimens collected from Houbihu, a small embayment within Nanwan Bay, southern Taiwan that is characterized by 8–9 °C temperature changes during upwelling events. Upon nine months of exposure to nearly 30 °C, all colony (mortality and surface area), polyp (Symbiodinium density and chlorophyll a content), tissue (total thickness), and molecular (gene expression and molecular composition)-level parameters were documented at similar levels between experimental corals and controls incubated at 26.5 °C, suggesting that this species can readily acclimate to elevated temperatures that cause significant degrees of stress, or even bleaching and mortality, in conspecifics of other regions of the Indo-Pacific. However, the gastrodermal tissue layer was relatively thicker in corals of the high temperature treatment sampled after nine months, possibly as an adaptive response to shade Symbiodinium from the higher photosynthetically active radiation levels that they were experiencing at that sampling time. Such shading may have prevented high light and high temperature-induced photoinhibition, and consequent bleaching, in these samples.

Keywords

Acclimation Coral reefs Endosymbiosis Gene expression Thermal stress Upwelling 

Supplementary material

338_2013_1067_MOESM1_ESM.docx (13 kb)
Supplementary material (DOCX 14 kb)
338_2013_1067_MOESM2_ESM.docx (17 kb)
Supplementary material (DOCX 18 kb)
338_2013_1067_MOESM3_ESM.eps (449 kb)
Electronic supplemental material Fig. 1. Molecular composition parameters. RNA/DNA (a) and protein/DNA (b) ratios, as well as Symbiodinium (c) and host (d) genome copy proportions (GCPs) were calculated in triplicate biological replicates of both the control (26.5 °C; white diamonds) and high (29.7 °C black triangles) temperature treatments after 2, 4, 8, 24, and 36 weeks of exposure. Error bars represent standard error of the mean. In c-d, letters above icons represent Tukey’s honestly significant difference groups (p < 0.05) for the effect of time only. (EPS 449 kb)

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National Museum of Marine Biology and AquariumChechengTaiwan
  2. 2.Living Oceans FoundationLandoverUSA
  3. 3.Graduate Institute of Marine Biodiversity and EvolutionNational Dong-Hwa UniversityChechengTaiwan
  4. 4.Graduate Institute of Marine BiotechnologyNational Dong-Hwa UniversityChechengTaiwan
  5. 5.Department of Marine Biotechnology and ResourcesNational Sun Yat-Sen UniversityKaohsiungTaiwan

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