Plasticity of symbiont acquisition in new recruits of the massive coral Platygyra daedalea under ocean warming and acidification

Symbiosis establishment is a milestone in the life cycles of most broadcast-spawning corals; however, it remains largely unknown how initial symbiont infection is affected by ocean warming and acidification, particularly for massive corals. This study investigated the combined effects of elevated temperature (29 vs. 31 °C) and pCO2 (~ 450 vs. ~ 1000 μatm) on the recruits of a widespread massive coral, Platygyra daedalea. Results showed that geometric diameter and symbiosis establishment were unaffected by high pCO2, while elevated temperature significantly reduced successful symbiont infection by 50% and retarded the geometric diameter by 6%. Although neither increased temperature, pCO2, nor their interaction affected survival or algal pigmentation of recruits, there was an inverse relationship between symbiont infection rates and survivorship, especially at high temperatures, possibly as a result of oxidative stress caused by algal symbionts under increased temperature. Intriguingly, the proportion of Durusdinium did not increase in recruits at 31 °C, while recruits reared under high pCO2 hosted less Breviolum and more Durusdinium, indicating a high degree of plasticity of early symbiosis and contrasting to the previous finding that heat stress usually leads to the prevalence of thermally tolerant Durusdinium in coral recruits. These results suggest that ocean warming is likely to be more deleterious for the early success of P. daedalea than ocean acidification and provide insights into our understanding of coral-algal symbiotic partnerships under future climatic conditions.

Jiang L., Zhou G. W., Zhang Y. Y., Lei X.-M., Yuan T., Guo M.-L., Yuan X.-C., Lian J.-S., Liu S. & Huang H., in press. Plasticity of symbiont acquisition in new recruits of the massive coral Platygyra daedalea under ocean warming and acidification. Coral Reefs. Article (subscription required).

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