Journal of Comparative Physiology B

, Volume 165, Issue 3, pp 183–192 | Cite as

Fatty acids of the scleractinian coral Galaxea fascicularis: effect of light and feeding

  • S. Al-Moghrabi
  • D. Allemand
  • J. M. Couret
  • J. Jaubert
Original Paper


In order to investigate nutritional interactions in the symbiotic scleractinian coral-zooxanthella association, fatty acids of the coral Galaxea fascicularis were analysed in two groups of cultured microcolonies. The first group was fed with Artemia sp., while the second group was starved. After an initial 1-month period during which both groups were subjected to the same “normal” light conditions (constant irradiance of 125 μE·cm-2·s-1 and 14:10 h light:dark), a light cap was used to cover the aquarium and keep all the microcolonies in permanent darkness for 20 days. During the light phase of the experiment it was shown that the nutritional status lead to large variations in the percentage of saturated, mono-unsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Palmitic acid (C16:0) was the most abundant fatty acid in both groups. Important differences between fed and starved microcolonies occurred during the dark phase of the experiment. In the fed group the dark phase was characterized by a significant increase in polyunsaturated fatty acids. Particularly arachidonic acid (C20:4 n-6) became the most important fatty acid followed by docosatrienoic acid (C22:3 n-3). A slight increase in these two fatty acids was also found in the starved group but the bulk of polyunsaturated fatty acids was significantly decreased. In this group, palmitic acid remained the most important fatty acid while an increased concentration of cis-vaccenic acid (C18:1 n-7) was found at the end of the experiment. The increased concentration of cis-vaccenic acid might indicate that bacteria serve as a source of energy. While the number of zooxanthellae per milligram of protein and the chlorophyll a to protein ratio strongly decreased in the starved microcolonies immediately after the beginning of the dark period, the decrease in fed microcolonies was delayed for about 10 days. Furthermore, after 20 days of dark incubation the chlorophyll a to protein ratio was the same as measured at the beginning of the dark period. This suggests that in the dark the metabolic requirements of the zooxanthellae are in part met from the animal host through a heterotrophic mode of nutrition.

Key words

Zooxanthellae Fatty acids Light Feeding Coral, Galaxea 



cultured zooxanthellae


fatty acid methylester(s)


fed dark microcolonies


fed light microcolonies


monounsaturated fatty acid(s)


polyunsaturated fatty acid(s)


starved dark microcolonies


saturated fatty acids


starved-light microcolonies


sea water


total fatty acids


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. Al-Moghrabi
    • 1
  • D. Allemand
    • 1
  • J. M. Couret
    • 2
  • J. Jaubert
    • 1
  1. 1.Observatoire Océanologique EuropéenCentre Scientifique de MonacoMonaco, Principality of Monaco
  2. 2.Laboratoire de Chimie AnalytiqueUniversité de Nice-Sophia AntipolisNice-Cedex 2France

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