Marine Biology

, Volume 161, Issue 10, pp 2307–2318 | Cite as

Molecular characterization of symbiotic algae (Symbiodinium spp.) in soritid foraminifera (Sorites orbiculus) and a scleractinian coral (Orbicella annularis) from St John, US Virgin Islands

  • X. PochonEmail author
  • R. D. Gates
  • D. Vik
  • P. J. Edmunds
Original Paper


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.


Foraminifera Operational Taxonomic Unit Symbiodinium Type Symbiont Type Symbiodinium Clade 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank Javier Atalah and Michael Stat for valuable discussions on statistical analyses. This research was funded by the US National Science Foundation through the Long-Term Research in Environmental Biology program (DEB 08-51441 to PJE) and was completed under permits VIIS-2010-SCI-0012 from the VI National Park, and STX-034-09 from the Department of Planning and Natural Resources, US Virgin Islands. We thank D. Brown, C. Ross and L. Jacobson for field assistances, S. Prosterman and V. Powell for logistical support, and the staff of the Virgin Islands Ecological Resource Station for making our research trips productive and enjoyable. This is contribution number 219 of the marine biology program of California State University, Northridge, SOEST contribution number 9178 and HIMB contribution number 1595.

Supplementary material

227_2014_2507_MOESM1_ESM.fasta (181 kb)
Supplementary Material 1. DNA sequence alignment (fasta format) containing the 418 Symbiodinium ITS-2 rDNA sequences isolated in this study. (FASTA 181 kb)
227_2014_2507_MOESM2_ESM.fasta (55 kb)
Supplementary Material 2. DNA sequence alignment (fasta format) containing the 130 unique Symbiodinium sequences used to generate OTU clusters. (FASTA 54 kb)
227_2014_2507_MOESM3_ESM.docx (2.3 mb)
Supplementary Material 3. TCS networks reconstructed for each of thirteen recovered OTU clusters. The ancestral sequence in each network (estimated by the TCS algorithm) is represented as a rectangle. Each line in the networks represents a single base pair change. Circles and squares highlighted in red indicate the Symbiodinium sequence types recovered in this study. (DOCX 2357 kb)
227_2014_2507_MOESM4_ESM.doc (35 kb)
Supplementary Material 4. Detailed EXCEL sheet showing the number of OTU sequences found in each host, site and depth. (DOC 35 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • X. Pochon
    • 1
    Email author
  • R. D. Gates
    • 2
  • D. Vik
    • 2
  • P. J. Edmunds
    • 3
  1. 1.The Cawthron InstituteNelsonNew Zealand
  2. 2.Hawaii Institute of Marine BiologyUniversity of HawaiiKaneoheUSA
  3. 3.Department of BiologyCalifornia State UniversityNorthridgeUSA

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