Linking host morphology and symbiont performance in octocorals

Sergio Rossi, Nadine Schubert, Darren Brown, Marcelo de Oliveira Soares, Victoria Grosso, Emma Rangel-Huerta, Ernesto Maldonado

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearch

23 Citations (Scopus)


© 2018, The Author(s). Octocorals represent an important group in reef communities throughout the tropical seas and, like scleractinian corals, they can be found in symbiosis with the dinoflagellate Symbiodinium. However, while there is extensive research on this symbiosis and its benefits in scleractinians, research on octocorals has focused so far mainly on the host without addressing their symbiosis. Here, we characterized and compared the photophysiological features of nine Caribbean octocoral species with different colony morphologies (sea fan, plumes, whips and rods) and related key morphological features with their respective symbiont photobiology. Colony features (branch shape and thickness), as well as micromorphological features (polyp size, density), were found to be significantly correlated with symbiont performance. Sea fans and plumes, with thinner branches and smaller polyps, favor higher metabolic rates, compared to sea rods with thicker branches and larger polyps. Daily integrated photosynthesis to respiration ratios > 1 indicated that the autotrophic contribution to organisms’ energy demands was important in all species, but especially in sea whips. This information represents an important step towards a better understanding of octocoral physiology and its relationship to host morphology, and might also explain to some extent species distribution and susceptibility to environmental stress.
Original languageEnglish
Article number12823
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2018


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