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High abundances of zooxanthellate zoantharians (Palythoa and Zoanthus) at multiple natural analogues: potential model anthozoans?

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Abstract

Whilst natural analogues for future ocean conditions such as CO2 seeps and enclosed lagoons in coral reef regions have received much recent research attention, most efforts in such locations have focused on the effects of prolonged high CO2 levels on scleractinian corals and fishes. Here, we demonstrate that the three species of zooxanthellate zoantharians, hexacorallian non-calcifying “cousins” of scleractinians, are common across five coral reef natural analogue sites with high CO2 levels in the western Pacific Ocean, in Japan (n = 2), Palau, Papua New Guinea, and New Caledonia (n = 1 each). These current observations support previously reported cases of high Palythoa and Zoanthus abundance and dominance on various impacted coral reefs worldwide. The results demonstrate the need for more research on the ecological roles of zooxanthellate zoantharians in coral reef systems, as well as examining other “understudied” taxa that may become increasingly important in the near future under climate change scenarios. Given their abundance in these sites combined with ease in sampling and non-CITES status, some zoantharian species should make excellent hexacoral models for examining potential resilience or resistance mechanisms of anthozoans to future high pCO2 conditions.

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Acknowledgements

This project contributes towards the International CO2 Natural Analogues (ICONA) Network. JDR, BPH, SA, SW, EK, and TR were partially funded by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) Core-to-Core Program (Grant Number: JPJSCCA20210006). Sampling in Bouraké was granted by ICONA. At Bouraké, we are indebted to M. Dumas and J. Giraud for their help during fieldwork operations, and to Greg and Esmeralda Peccard for their amazing support. Sampling at Ambitle CO2 seep in PNG was financed by the French National Research Agency (ANR; project CARIOCA grant agreement no. ANR15CE02-0006-01, 2015), by the French grant scheme Fonds Pacifique (project AMBITLE grant agreement no. 1598, 2016), and by the Flotte Océanographique Française for using the research vessel Alis. For Shikinejima, we thank the technical staff at Shimoda Marine Research Center and aboard RV Tsukuba II, University of Tsukuba, for their assistance and the fisheries agencies of Nijima/Shikine Island (Tokyo Prefecture) for their support. JDR’s work in Palau was supported by the JST/JICA P-CoRIE project. The staffs of Palau International Coral Reef Center (PICRC) are thanked for logistic support. Work at Iwotorishima was supported by an OIST KICKS grant entitled “Japanese volcanic CO2 vents—natural laboratories to study the behaviour and adaptation of marine organisms to acidifying oceans” to TR, HK, and JDR. We thank the captain and crew of the Yosemiya III, and cruise member Y. Ide (Oceanic Planning Corp.) for their support and advice at Iwotorishima. H. Takamiyagi (OIST) provided support at Iwotorishima and in New Caledonia. Two anonymous reviewers provided helpful comments on an earlier version of this manuscript.

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Reimer, J.D., Agostini, S., Golbuu, Y. et al. High abundances of zooxanthellate zoantharians (Palythoa and Zoanthus) at multiple natural analogues: potential model anthozoans?. Coral Reefs 42, 707–715 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00338-023-02381-9

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