Coral ontogeny affects early symbiont acquisition in laboratory-reared recruits
In most coral species, the critical association with a subset of genetically diverse algal endosymbionts, Symbiodinium, is re-established anew each generation in early coral ontogeny. Yet little is known about the window during which these associations are established or the potential for altering symbiont associations through early exposure to non-native, and/or ecologically beneficial (e.g., stress tolerant), symbiont strains. This study examined the ontogenetic window of symbiont uptake in a restoration target species. Orbicella faveolata recruits, maintained aposymbiotic in laboratory tanks for 4 months, showed a significant decrease in symbiont acquisition upon exposure to natural seawater. Recruits initially inoculated with cultured Symbiodinium readily acquired additional strains from environmental symbiont populations upon exposure, but exogenous uptake also decreased in frequency after 4 months of laboratory rearing. Early exposure to Symbiodinium may benefit laboratory-reared recruits (e.g., enhance growth), but the potential for establishing long-term novel symbiotic associations may be limited.
KeywordsSymbiodinium Restoration Coral symbiosis Orbicella faveolata
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