Quantifying cryptic Symbiodinium diversity within Orbicella faveolata and Orbicella franksi at the Flower Garden Banks, Gulf of Mexico

Elizabeth A GreenMónica Medina


The genetic composition of the resident Symbiodinium endosymbionts can strongly modulate the physiological performance of reef-building corals. Here, we used quantitative metabarcoding to investigate Symbiodinium genetic diversity in two species of mountainous star corals, Orbicella franksi and Orbicella faveolata, from two reefs separated by 19 km of deep water. We aimed to determine if the frequency of different symbiont genotypes varied with respect to coral host species or geographic location. Our results demonstrate that across the two reefs both coral species contained seven haplotypes of Symbiodinium, all identifiable as clade B and most closely related to type B1. Five of these haplotypes have not been previously described and may be endemic to the Flower Garden Banks. No significant differences in symbiont composition were detected between the two coral species. However, significant quantitative differences were detected between the east and west banks for three background haplotypes comprising 0.1%-10% of the total. The quantitative metabarcoding approach described here can help to sensitively characterize cryptic genetic diversity of Symbiodinium and potentially contribute to the understanding of physiological variat...Continue Reading


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