Cell-specific density of symbiotic dinoflagellates in tropical anthozoans
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Symbiotic dinoflagellates are abundant in the endoderm cells of tropical marine anthozoans, but the cell-specific density (CSD) of symbionts has not yet been investigated. In this study we used mechanical and enzymatic methods of maceration, and staining with substrate-specific fluorochromes, to observe a large number of individual host cells from 33 species of tropical anthozoans collected in Florida, Hawaii and Jamaica or cultured in Monaco. In the majority of species, most of the host cells contained a single algal cell (singlet). Host cells with two or more (up to six) algae were much less abundant. The average CSD for the 33 species was 1.54±0.30 (range 1.11 to 2.19). Singlets arranged in a monolayer can account for the areal density of algae observed in many anthozoans. The dinoflagellates occupy most of the interior of macerated host cells, leaving the host cytoplasm and cell membrane as a thin outer layer, often unresolvable by light microscopy. This spatial arrangement may favor diffusion and transport of CO2, bicarbonate ions, and nutrients from the environment to the algae. The effect of nutrient enrichment on CSD was determined by exposing eleven species to chronically elevated levels of ammonium-N. After four weeks all species exhibited a dramatic increase in algal mitotic index and CSD. The potential consequences of environmentally induced increases in CSD in tropical anthozoans are discussed in terms of the decreased cell-specific photosynthesis (CO2 limitation) and decreased rates of calcification observed in other studies.
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