GCI researchers have revealed some interesting insights into the mutually beneficial relationship between corals and their symbiotic algae, as part of the Catlin Seaview Survey.
Most corals host photosynthetic algae inside their tissues, called “zooxanthellae”, which provide the coral host with sugars and amino acids, allowing them to thrive in tropical, nutrient-poor waters.
Tropical corals can occur over large depth ranges, from close to the ocean surface, to deep down into what is known as the mesophotic zone (30 to >100 m below sea level). Dr Pim Bongaerts and his team have demonstrated that corals’ ability to thrive at different depths is aided by hosting different strains of algae.
This work involved identifying the zooxanthellae of more than 1,600 corals, which represents one of the largest genotyping efforts carried out on a single coral reef.
Dr Bongaerts’ paper Prevalent endosymbiont zonation shapes the depth distributions of scleractinian coral species, was published in Royal Society Open Science.