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Breviolum and Cladocopium Are Dominant Among Symbiodiniaceae of the Coral Holobiont Madracis decactis


The scleractinian reef building coral Madracis decactis is a cosmopolitan species. Understanding host–symbiont associations is critical for assessing coral’s habitat requirements and its response to environmental changes. In this study, we performed a fine grained phylogenetic analyses of Symbiodiniaceae associated with Madracis in two locations in the Southwest Atlantic Ocean (Abrolhos Bank and St. Peter and St. Paul Archipelago). Previous studies have argued that Madracis is a specialist coral, with colonies harboring a single symbiont from the genus Breviolum (formerly clade B). However, these previous studies have not precisely addressed if Madracis is colonized by several types of Symbiodiniaceae simultaneously or whether this coral is a specialist. The hypothesis that Madracis is a generalist coral host was evaluated in the present study. A total of 1.9 million reads of ITS2 nuclear ribosomal DNA were obtained by Illumina MiSeq sequencing. While Symbiodiniaceae ITS2 sequences between two sampling depths were almost entirely (62%) from the genus Breviolum (formerly clade B), shallow (10–15 m) populations in Abrolhos had a greater diversity of ITS2 sequences in comparison to deeper (25–35 m) populations of St. Peter and St. Paul Archipelago. Cladocopium (formerly clade C) and Symbiodinium (formerly clade A) were also found in Abrolhos. A single Madracis colony can host different symbiont types with > 30 Symbiodiniaceae ITS2-type profiles. Abrolhos corals presented a higher photosynthetic potential as a possible result of co-occurrence of multiple Symbiodiniaceae in a single coral colony. Multiple genera/clades of Symbiodiniaceae possibly confer coral hosts with broader environmental tolerance and ability to occupy diverse or changing habitats.

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Data Availability

Raw ITS2 amplicon sequences are available in the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), Sequence Read Archive (SRA) under the Project No. PRJNA732715 and Accession Nos. SAMN19340223, SAMN19340224, SAMN19340225, SAMN19340226, SAMN19340239, SAMN19340240, and SAMN19340241.

Code Availability

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We are grateful for the support offered by the Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES), Conselho Nacional de Pesquisas (CNPq), and Fundação Carlos Chagas Filho de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado do Rio de Janeiro (FAPERJ).


Support was offered by the Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES), ConselhomNacional de Pesquisas (CNPq), and Fundação Carlos Chagas Filho de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado do Rio de Janeiro (FAPERJ).

Author information




Tooba Varasteh conceived the study design, DNA extractions and PCR, the bioinformatics analysis, and discussion of the results and drafted the manuscript. Ronaldo Francini-Filho collected the samples in the field and participated in the acquisition of funding. Vinícius Salazar performed the bioinformatics analyses. Ronaldo Francini-Filho, Jean Swings, Diogo Tschoeke, Gizele Garcia, and Cristiane Thompson participated in the discussion of the results and drafted the manuscript. Fabiano Lopes Thompson participated in the acquisition of funding and conceived the study design, discussion of the results, and draft of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Tooba Varasteh or Fabiano L. Thompson.

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Varasteh, T., Salazar, V., Tschoeke, D. et al. Breviolum and Cladocopium Are Dominant Among Symbiodiniaceae of the Coral Holobiont Madracis decactis. Microb Ecol (2021).

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  • Symbiodiniaceae
  • Madracis
  • ITS2
  • Photosynthetic potential
  • Abrolhos
  • Brazil