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International Conference on Climate Change Global Warming

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The relative contribution of dinoflagellate photosynthesis and stored lipids to the survivorship of symbiotic larvae of the reef-building corals

Author(s): Harii S, Yamamoto M, Hoegh-Guldberg O


The long-distance dispersal of larvae provides important linkages between populations of reef-building corals and is a critical part of coral biology. Some coral planulae have symbiotic dinoflagellates (Symbiodinium spp.) that probably provide energy in addition to the lipids provisioned within the egg. However, our understanding of the influence of symbionts on the energy metabolism and survivorship of planulae remains limited. This study examines the relative roles of symbiotic dinoflagellate photosynthesis and stored lipid content in the survivorship of the developing stages of the corals Pocillopora damicornis and Montipora digitata. We found that survivorship decreased under dark conditions (i.e. no photosynthetic activity) for P. damicornis and M. digitata at 31 and 22 days after release/spawning, respectively. The lipid content of P. damicornis and M. digitata planulae showed a significant decrease, at a higher rate, under dark conditions, when compared with light conditions. When converted to energy equivalents, the available energy provided by the depletion of lipids could account for 41.9 and 84.7% of larval metabolism for P. damicornis (by day 31) and 38.4 and 90.1% for M. digitata (by day 21) under light and dark conditions, respectively. This finding indicates that not all energy requirements of the larvae are met by lipids: energy is also sourced from the photosynthetic activities of the symbiotic dinoflagellates within these larvae, especially under light conditions. In addition, the amounts of three main lipid classes (wax esters, triglycerides, and phospholipids) decreased throughout the experiment in the planulae of both species, with the wax ester content decreasing more rapidly under dark conditions than under light conditions. The observations that the planulae of both species derive considerable amounts of energy from wax esters, and that symbiotic dinoflagellates enable larvae to use their stores at lower rates, suggested that symbiotic dinoflagellates have the potential to extend larval life under light conditions.

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