Molecular characterization of symbiotic algae (Symbiodinium spp.) in soritid foraminifera (Soritesorbiculus) and a scleractinian coral (Orbicella annularis) from St John, US Virgin Islands
The exchange of Symbiodinium symbionts among scleractinian and soritid hosts could facilitate acclimatization to changing conditions by establishing novel symbiotic unions better tuned to prevailing conditions. In this study, we compare the communities of Symbiodinium spp. in neighboring populations of Orbicella annularis and Sorites orbiculus from St. John, US Virgin Islands, using operational taxonomic unit (OTU) clustering of cloned internal transcribed spacer 2 (ITS-2) rDNA sequences. We tested for partitioning of Symbiodinium OTUs by host and depth within and between two sites to explore the potential for symbiont exchange between hosts and light-dependent microhabitat specialization. An apparent lack of overlap in Symbiodinium communities (13 OTUs representing 7 clades) hosted by O. annularis and S. orbiculus suggests that exchange among these hosts does not occur. A low number of novel clade G ITS-2 sequences were found in one O. annularis and one S. orbiculus. A phylogenetic analysis of these sequences revealed them to be sub-clade G2 Symbiodinium, which are most commonly hosted by excavating clionid sponges. A permutational MANOVA revealed within host differences in the partitioning of Symbiodinium OTUs by site but not depth. This finding highlights the potential roles of either dissimilar environmental conditions between sites, or at least partial separation between populations, in determining the types of Symbiodinium contained in different hosts on a spatial scale of a few kilometers.