Obligate ectosymbionts increase the physiological resilience of a scleractinian coral to high temperature and elevated pCO2

Invertebrate ectosymbionts within the coralla of scleractinians enhance host fitness through protection from corallivores and nutrient addition. Here, we explore the ectosymbiotic relationship between the coral Pocillopora verrucosa and the crab Trapezia serenei and the shrimp Alpheus spp., to test for effects on coral calcification under contrasts of seawater temperature (27.7 °C and 29.9 °C) and pH (ambient, 8.0 and reduced, 7.7). Regardless of temperature, ectosymbionts depressed calcification by 55% (vs without ectosymbionts) at ambient pH; however, ectosymbionts only depressed calcification under ambient pH but not at reduced pH. These results suggest that P. verrucosa grows fastest at ambient pH without ectosymbionts, but when ectosymbionts are present, colonies are protected from further declines in calcification at reduced pH. This implies that there may be a change from a currently parasitic ectosymbiont–coral relationship to a commensal relationship that could increase fitness advantages for corals hosting crustacean ectosymbionts under ocean acidification conditions.

Doo S. S., Carpenter R. C. & Edmunds P. J., 2018. Obligate ectosymbionts increase the physiological resilience of a scleractinian coral to high temperature and elevated pCO2. Coral Reefs 37: 997-1001. Article (subscription required).


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