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  1. We test a newly developed instrument prototype which utilizes time-resolved chlorophyll- a fluorescence techniques and fluctuating light to characterize Symbiodiniaceae functional traits across seven different coral species under cultivation as part of ongoing restoration efforts in the Florida Keys. While traditional chlorophyll- a fluorescence techniques only provide a handful of algal biometrics, the system and protocol we have developed generates > 1000 dynamic measurements in a short (~11 min) time frame. Resulting ‘high-content’ algal biometric data revealed distinct phenotypes, which broadly corresponded to genus-level Symbiodiniaceae designations determined using quantitative PCR. Next, algal biometric data from Acropora cervicornis (10 genotypes) and A. palmata (5 genotypes) coral fragments was correlated with bleaching response metrics collected after a two month-long exposure to high temperature. A network analysis identified 1973 correlations (Spearman R > 0.5) between algal biometrics and various bleaching response metrics. These identified biomarkers of thermal stress were then utilized to train a predictive model, and when tested against the same A. cervicornis and A. palmata coral fragments, yielded high correlation (R = 0.92) with measured thermal response (reductions in absorbance by chlorophyll-a). When applied to all seven coral species, the model ranked fragments dominated by Cladocopium or Breviolum symbionts as moremore »bleaching susceptible than corals harboring thermally tolerant symbionts ( Durusdinium ). While direct testing of bleaching predictions on novel genotypes is still needed, our device and modeling pipeline may help broaden the scalability of existing approaches for determining thermal tolerance in reef corals. Our instrument prototype and analytical pipeline aligns with recent coral restoration assessments that call for the development of novel tools for improving scalability of coral restoration programs.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 2, 2024
  2. Johnson, Karyn N. (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT Coral reefs are possible sinks for microbes; however, the removal mechanisms at play are not well understood. Here, we characterize pelagic microbial groups at the CARMABI reef (Curaçao) and examine microbial consumption by three coral species: Madracis mirabilis , Porites astreoides , and Stephanocoenia intersepta . Flow cytometry analyses of water samples collected from a depth of 10 m identified 6 microbial groups: Prochlorococcus , three groups of Synechococcus , photosynthetic eukaryotes, and heterotrophic bacteria. Minimum growth rates (μ) for Prochlorococcus , all Synechococcus groups, and photosynthetic eukaryotes were 0.55, 0.29, and 0.45 μ day −1 , respectively, and suggest relatively high rates of productivity despite low nutrient conditions on the reef. During a series of 5-h incubations with reef corals performed just after sunset or prior to sunrise, reductions in the abundance of photosynthetic picoeukaryotes, Prochlorococcus and Synechococcus cells, were observed. Of the three Synechococcus groups, one decreased significantly during incubations with each coral and the other two only with M. mirabilis. Removal of carbon from the water column is based on coral consumption rates of phytoplankton and averaged between 138 ng h −1 and 387 ng h −1 , depending on the coral species. A lack of coral-dependent reduction inmore »heterotrophic bacteria, differences in Synechococcus reductions, and diurnal variation in reductions of Synechococcus and Prochlorococcus , coinciding with peak cell division, point to selective feeding by corals. Our study indicates that bentho-pelagic coupling via selective grazing of microbial groups influences carbon flow and supports heterogeneity of microbial communities overlying coral reefs. IMPORTANCE We identify interactions between coral grazing behavior and the growth rates and cell abundances of pelagic microbial groups found surrounding a Caribbean reef. During incubation experiments with three reef corals, reductions in microbial cell abundance differed according to coral species and suggest specific coral or microbial mechanisms are at play. Peaks in removal rates of Prochlorococcus and Synechococcus cyanobacteria appear highest during postsunset incubations and coincide with microbial cell division. Grazing rates and effort vary across coral species and picoplankton groups, possibly influencing overall microbial composition and abundance over coral reefs. For reef corals, use of such a numerically abundant source of nutrition may be advantageous, especially under environmentally stressful conditions when symbioses with dinoflagellate algae break down.« less
  3. Within microeukaryotes, genetic variation and functional variation sometimes accumulate more quickly than morphological differences. To understand the evolutionary history and ecology of such lineages, it is key to examine diversity at multiple levels of organization. In the dinoflagellate family Symbiodiniaceae, which can form endosymbioses with cnidarians ( e.g ., corals, octocorals, sea anemones, jellyfish), other marine invertebrates ( e.g. , sponges, molluscs, flatworms), and protists ( e.g ., foraminifera), molecular data have been used extensively over the past three decades to describe phenotypes and to make evolutionary and ecological inferences. Despite advances in Symbiodiniaceae genomics, a lack of consensus among researchers with respect to interpreting genetic data has slowed progress in the field and acted as a barrier to reconciling observations. Here, we identify key challenges regarding the assessment and interpretation of Symbiodiniaceae genetic diversity across three levels: species, populations, and communities. We summarize areas of agreement and highlight techniques and approaches that are broadly accepted. In areas where debate remains, we identify unresolved issues and discuss technologies and approaches that can help to fill knowledge gaps related to genetic and phenotypic diversity. We also discuss ways to stimulate progress, in particular by fostering a more inclusive and collaborative researchmore »community. We hope that this perspective will inspire and accelerate coral reef science by serving as a resource to those designing experiments, publishing research, and applying for funding related to Symbiodiniaceae and their symbiotic partnerships.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 1, 2024
  4. Abstract

    Reef‐building corals in the genusPoritesare one of the most important constituents of Indo‐Pacific reefs. Many species within this genus tolerate abnormally warm water and exhibit high specificity for particular kinds of endosymbiotic dinoflagellates that cope with thermal stress better than those living in other corals. Still, during extreme ocean heating, somePoritesexhibit differences in their stress tolerance. While corals have different physiological qualities, it remains unknown whether the stability and performance of these mutualisms is influenced by the physiology and genetic relatedness of their symbionts. We investigated two ubiquitous Pacific reef corals,Porites rusandPorites cylindrica, from warmer inshore and cooler offshore reef systems in Palau. While these corals harbored a similar kind of symbiont in the genusCladocopium(within the ITS2C15 subclade), rapidly evolving genetic markers revealed evolutionarily diverged lineages corresponding to eachPoritesspecies living in each reef habitat. Furthermore, these closely relatedCladocopiumlineages were differentiated by their densities in host tissues, cell volume, chlorophyll concentration, gross photosynthesis, and photoprotective pathways. When assessed using several physiological proxies, these previously undifferentiated symbionts contrasted in their tolerance to thermal stress. Symbionts withinP.cylindricawere relatively unaffected by exposure to 32℃ for 14 days, whereasP.ruscolonies lost substantial numbers of photochemically compromised symbionts. Heating reduced the ability of the offshore symbiont associated withP.rustomore »translocate carbon to the coral. By contrast, high temperatures enhanced symbiont carbon assimilation and delivery to the coral skeleton of inshoreP.cylindrica. This study indicates that large physiological differences exist even among closely related symbionts, with significant implications for thermal susceptibility among reef‐buildingPorites.

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  5. Voolstra, Christian R. (Ed.)