Marine Biology

, Volume 152, Issue 2, pp 395–404 | Cite as

Photobiology of endolithic microorganisms in living coral skeletons: 1. Pigmentation, spectral reflectance and variable chlorophyll fluorescence analysis of endoliths in the massive corals Cyphastrea serailia, Porites lutea and Goniastrea australensis

  • P. J. RalphEmail author
  • A. W. D. Larkum
  • M. Kühl
Research Article


We used microscopy, reflectance spectroscopy, pigment analysis, and photosynthesis-irradiance curves measured with variable fluorescence techniques to characterise the endolithic communities of phototrophic microorganisms in the skeleton of three massive corals from a shallow reef flat. Microscopic observations and reflectance spectra showed the presence of up to four distinct bands of photosynthetic microorganisms at different depths within the coral skeleton. Endolithic communities closer to the coral surface exhibited higher photosynthetic electron transport rates and a green zone dominated by Ostreobium quekettii nearest the surface had the greatest chlorophyll pigment concentration. However, Ostreobium was also present and photosynthetically active in the colourless band between the coral tissue and the green band. The spectral properties and pigment density of the endolithic bands were also found to closely correlate to photosynthetic rates as assessed by fluorometry. All endolithic communities were extremely shade-adapted, and photosynthesis was saturated at irradiances <7 μmol photons m−2s−1.


Reef Flat Coral Tissue Living Coral Green Band Coral Skeleton 
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.



Analysis of variance


Charge coupled device




Photoinhibition index


Downwelling irradiance


Minimum saturating irradiance


Irradiance at maximum photosynthetic rate


Electron transport rate


Maximum fluorescence in dark


Maximum fluorescence in light


Minimum fluorescence in dark


Minimum fluorescence in light


Light emitting diode


Photosynthetically active radiation


Photosynthetic capacity at saturating irradiance


Scaling factor


Photosystem II


Relative maximum electron transport rate


Rapid light curve


Initial slope of RLC


Slope of RLC after photoinhibition


Effective quantum yield



This study was supported by UTS Internal Funds, the Australian Research Council (PJR and AWDL) and the Danish Natural Science Research Council (MK). A. Glud is thanked for excellent technical assistance. We wish to thank the staff at Heron Island Research station for their support and assistance in this research. All work was carried out under Queensland National Parks and Wildlife Service collection permit G01/623. This is Contribution No. 2 of the Sydney Harbour Institute of Marine Science.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Water and Environmental Resource Management, Department of Environmental SciencesUniversity of Technology, SydneySydneyAustralia
  2. 2.School of Biological SciencesUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia
  3. 3.Marine Biological Laboratory, Institute of BiologyUniversity of CopenhagenHelsingørDenmark

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