Fine-scale delineation of Symbiodiniaceae genotypes on a previously bleached central Red Sea reef system demonstrates a prevalence of coral host-specific associations

Benjamin Hume, Alejandro Mejia Restrepo, Christian R. Voolstra, Michael L. Berumen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Widespread coral bleaching occurred in the central Red Sea in 2010 and 2015. During both events, a cross-shelf and depth gradient of bleaching severity was identified within the Thuwal reef system, central Red Sea, Saudi Arabia. While bleaching and survival of coral taxa were monitored, neither in situ reef temperatures nor coral-associated algal communities (family Symbiodiniaceae) were characterized. Here, we determined coral host-associated Symbiodiniaceae communities and monitored temperatures along the same cross-shelf and depth gradient on six reefs in 2017 to better understand the role of these factors in the observed bleaching patterns and to generate a baseline for further studies. We characterized > 600 coral–algal associations across winter and summer in six genera of scleractinian coral (Pocillopora, Stylophora, Seriatopora, Galaxea, Gardineroseris, and Porites) and one fire coral (Family Milleporidae) using ITS2 next-generation sequencing in conjunction with the SymPortal analytical framework. We show that previous bleaching patterns correlate poorly with the largely coral host-specific structure of the 2017 Symbiodiniaceae community and are in better agreement with absolute and intraday sea water temperature variations monitored on the reefs. We demonstrate a greater distinctiveness of Symbiodiniaceae communities at the more severely bleached inshore reefs compared to those reefs further offshore. However, the potential Symbiodiniaceae community changes at these reefs prior to our sampling prevent us from evaluating this distinctiveness as determinative of the differences in bleaching severities. Based on our analyses, we discuss how fine-scale delineation of algal genotypes, including host-specific putative genotypes of Durusdinium trenchii that represent alluring targets for further taxonomic identification, corroborate a niche-adapted rather than generalist character of many coral–Symbiodiniaceae associations. In conclusion, as studies such as this one continue to build the global catalogue of coral–Symbiodiniaceae associations, we may be afforded a better oversight of how specialized coral–algal associations really are and how restricted their modification may be, both of which are critical considerations in predicting the adaptive potential of corals and the reef ecosystems they build.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalCoral Reefs
StatePublished - Mar 16 2020

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledgements: We would like to thank Roberto Arrigoni, Darren Cocker, Tullia Terraneo, Rodrigo Villalobos, Michael Wooster, Sara Wilson, and Emily Troyer for their assistance with laboratory and field work; the KAUST Bioscience Core Laboratory for assistance with sequencing; and the KAUST Coastal and Marine Resources Core Laboratory for assistance with field work. Funding for this project was provided by the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (baseline funds to M.L.B. and C.R.V.).


Dive into the research topics of 'Fine-scale delineation of Symbiodiniaceae genotypes on a previously bleached central Red Sea reef system demonstrates a prevalence of coral host-specific associations'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this