Marine Biology

, Volume 148, Issue 4, pp 711–722 | Cite as

Multi-year, seasonal genotypic surveys of coral-algal symbioses reveal prevalent stability or post-bleaching reversion

  • Daniel J. ThornhillEmail author
  • Todd C. LaJeunesse
  • Dustin W. Kemp
  • William K. Fitt
  • Gregory W. Schmidt
Research Article


This report documents the extent to which coral colonies show fluctuations in their associations with different endosymbiotic dinoflagellates. The genetic identity of Symbiodinium from six coral species [Acropora palmata (Lamarck), A. cervicornis (Lamarck), Siderastrea siderea (Ellis and Solander), Montastrea faveolata (Ellis and Solander), M. annularis (Ellis and Solander), and M. franksi (Gregory)] was examined seasonally over five years (1998 and 2000–2004) in the Bahamas and Florida Keys at shallow (1 to 4 m) fore-reef/patch reef sites and at deeper fore-reef (12–15 m) locations. Symbionts were identified genetically using denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) fingerprinting of the internal transcribed spacer region 2 (ITS2) of ribosomal RNA gene loci. Repetitive sampling from most labeled colonies from the Bahamas and the Florida Keys showed little to no change in their dominant symbiont. In contrast, certain colonies of M. annularis and M. franksi from the Florida Keys exhibited shifts in their associations attributed to recovery from the stresses of the 1997–1998 El Niño southern oscillation (ENSO) event. Over several years, a putatively stress-tolerant clade D type of Symbiodinium was progressively replaced in these colonies by symbionts typically found in M. annularis and M. franksi in Florida and at other Caribbean locations. Greater environmental fluctuations in Florida may explain the observed changes among some of the symbioses. Furthermore, symbiotic associations were more heterogeneous at shallow sites, relative to deep sites. The exposure to greater environmental variability near the surface may explain the higher symbiont diversity found within and between host colonies.


Great Barrier Reef Patch Reef Coral Coloni Bleaching Event Deep Reef 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This research was funded by NSF (9906976 and 0137007) and the NOAA National Undersea Research Program through both the Caribbean Marine Research Center on Lee Stocking Island in the Bahamas and the Florida Keys Dayboat Program run by the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. An NSF Graduate Research Fellowship to the senior author also supported this work. This project would not have been possible without the help of Geoff Chilcoat, Brian Todd, Mark Warner, Tom Shannon, Cecilia Torres, Jennifer McCabe and Mike Daniel who assisted in sample collection. We would also like to thank Kate Semone and Mike Daniel for their contributions in sample processing.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel J. Thornhill
    • 1
    Email author
  • Todd C. LaJeunesse
    • 2
    • 3
  • Dustin W. Kemp
    • 1
  • William K. Fitt
    • 1
  • Gregory W. Schmidt
    • 3
  1. 1.Institute of EcologyUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA
  2. 2.Department of BiologyFlorida International UniversityMiamiUSA
  3. 3.Department of Plant BiologyUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA

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