Coral Reefs

, Volume 29, Issue 1, pp 21–29 | Cite as

Relationship between symbiont density and photosynthetic carbon acquisition in the temperate coral Cladocora caespitosa

  • M. Hoogenboom
  • E. Beraud
  • C. Ferrier-Pagès


This study quantified variation in net photosynthetic carbon gain in response to natural fluctuations in symbiont density for the Mediterranean coral Cladocora caespitosa, and evaluated which density maximized photosynthetic carbon acquisition. To do this, carbon acquisition was modeled as an explicit function of symbiont density. The model was parameterized using measurements of rates of photosynthesis and respiration for small colonies with a broad range of zooxanthella concentrations. Results demonstrate that rates of net photosynthesis increase asymptotically with symbiont density, whereas rates of respiration increase linearly. In combination, these functional responses meant that colony energy acquisition decreased at both low and at very high zooxanthella densities. However, there was a wide range of symbiont densities for which net daily photosynthesis was approximately equivalent. Therefore, significant changes in symbiont density do not necessarily cause a change in autotrophic energy acquisition by the colony. Model estimates of the optimal range of cell densities corresponded well with independent observations of symbiont concentrations obtained from field and laboratory studies of healthy colonies. Overall, this study demonstrates that the seasonal fluctuations, in symbiont numbers observed in healthy colonies of the Mediterranean coral investigated, do not have a strong effect on photosynthetic energy acquisition.


Scleractinian coral Photosynthesis Respiration Energy balance Symbiosis Optimality model 



This work was supported by funding from the government of the Principality of Monaco to the Centre Scientifique de Monaco. We thank R. Rodolfo-Metalpa for coral collection and C. Rottier for assistance with coral culture.

Supplementary material

338_2009_558_MOESM1_ESM.doc (70 kb)
DOC 70 kb


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre Scientifique de MonacoMonacoWestern Europe
  2. 2.University of GlasgowGlasgowUK

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