Bleached Porites compressa and Montipora capitata corals catabolize δ13C-enriched lipids
Corals rely on stored energy reserves (i.e., lipids, carbohydrates, and protein) to survive bleaching events. To better understand the physiological implications of coral bleaching on lipid catabolism and/or synthesis, we measured the δ13C of coral total lipids (δ13CTL) in experimentally bleached (treatment) and non-bleached (control) Porites compressa and Montipora capitata corals immediately after bleaching and after 1.5 and 4 months of recovery on the reef. Overall δ13CTL values in treatment corals were significantly lower than in control corals because of a 1.9 and 3.4‰ decrease in δ13CTL immediately after bleaching in P. compressa and M. capitata, respectively. The decrease in δ13CTL coincided with decreases in total lipid concentration, indicating that corals catabolized δ13C-enriched lipids. Since storage lipids are primarily depleted during bleaching, we hypothesize that they are isotopically enriched relative to other lipid classes. This work further helps clarify our understanding of changes to coral metabolism and biogeochemistry when bleached and helps elucidate how lipid classes may influence recovery from bleaching and ultimately coral survival.
KeywordsCoral bleaching Lipids Stable carbon isotopes δ13C
We thank the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, the Department of Land and Natural Resources Hawaii, P. Jokiel, L. Rauchenstein, and Y. Matsui. Funding was provided by the Mellon Foundation and the National Science Foundation (OCE 0542415 and 0825490). This is contribution 1442 of the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology.
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