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Coral-Algal Symbiosis in the South China Sea

Paper Reviewed
Tong, H., Cai, L., Zhou, G., Yuan, T., Zhang, W., Tian, R., Huang, H. and Qian, P-Y. 2017. Temperature shapes coral-algal symbiosis in the South China Sea. Scientific Reports 7: 40118, DOI: 10.1038/srep40118.

Focusing on the topic of coral symbiosis, Tong et al. (2017) describe how they examined the "coral-algal symbiosis in Galaxea fascicularis and Montipora spp. from three biogeographic regions that stretched across ~10° of latitude in the South China Sea." There they discovered "a highly flexible coral-algal symbiosis in both G. fascicularis and Montipora spp." which showed that "temperature explained 83.2% and 60.1% of the explanatory subclade variations in G. fascicularis and Montipora spp., respectively," which in turn suggested that "temperature was the main environmental factor contributing to the diversity of Symbiodinium across the three regions."

As for the significance of these findings, the eight Chinese researchers report that "the symbiotic dinoflagellates (Symbiodinium) in corals contribute approximately 95% of the coral energy requirements and play a central role in coral reef maintenance and productivity." And so it is that they further correctly conclude that "coral reef resilience to future climate change strongly relies on the adaptation of coral-algal symbiosis," adding that "the present study demonstrated that temperature drove coral-algal symbiosis spatial change in the South China Sea and corals had the potential to adapt to future climate change with selecting more heat-tolerant Symbiodinium under gradually rising sea surface temperature." And that finding suggests that, "for the future conservation of corals in the South China Sea, the introduction to coral hosts of heat-tolerant Symbiodinium might facilitate their adaptation to future climate change."

Posted 24 April 2017