Trade-offs in disease and bleaching susceptibility among two color morphs of the Hawaiian reef coral, Montipora capitata
Two threats impacting coral reefs are bleaching and disease, and differential susceptibility to both exists among and within coral taxa. Bleaching resistance is commonly linked to the clade of endosymbiotic Symbiodinium, but may come at a cost to other biological traits. Montipora capitata is an Indo-Pacific reef-building coral with two color morphs, red and orange, which harbor different clades of Symbiodinium. We explored whether these color morphs displayed differences in bleaching/disease susceptibility and other biological traits (growth rate, reproductive output, and lipid content). We found a trade-off between disease and bleaching susceptibility. The orange morph had significantly higher disease prevalence, whereas the red morph had significantly higher bleaching prevalence. Thermal stress experiments found that bleaching and loss of photochemical efficiency occurred significantly faster in the red morph, but at normal temperatures, the red morph had a significantly higher growth rate. Higher abundance of the red morph in the field suggests that disease resistance is a more successful strategy in the absence of thermal stress events. The orange morph may better tolerate increases in sea temperatures, but may not persist due to decreased growth rate and increased disease susceptibility. Trade-offs in response to stressors highlight the need to consider local and global threats to coral reefs.
KeywordsCoral disease Coral bleaching Life history trade-offs Differential susceptibility
This project was supported by NSF Grant OCE-0961814. We would like to thank Dr. Fenny Cox for her advice with reproductive, growth rate, and thermal tolerance experiments. We would like to thank Christina Runyon, Helena Eitel, and a host of other volunteers for assistance with field surveys, reproduction experiments, and growth rate experiments. The authors declare no conflicts of interest.
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