Symbiont community stability through severe coral bleaching in a thermally extreme lagoon

E. G. Smith, G. O. Vaughan, R. N. Ketchum, D. McParland, J. A. Burt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Coral reefs are threatened by climate change as coral-algal symbioses are currently living close to their upper thermal limits. The resilience of the algal partner plays a key role in determining the thermal tolerance of the coral holobiont and therefore, understanding the acclimatory limits of present day coral-algal symbioses is fundamental to forecasting corals' responses to climate change. This study characterised the symbiont community in a highly variable and thermally extreme (Max = 37.5 °C, Min = 16.8 °C) lagoon located in the southern Persian/Arabian Gulf using next generation sequencing of ITS2 amplicons. Despite experiencing extreme temperatures, severe bleaching and many factors that would be expected to promote the presence of, or transition to clade D dominance, the symbiont communities of the lagoon remain dominated by the C3 variant, Symbiodinium thermophilum. The stability of this symbiosis across multiple genera with different means of symbiont transmission highlights the importance of Symbiodinium thermophilum for corals living at the acclimatory limits of modern day corals. Corals in this extreme environment did not undergo adaptive bleaching, suggesting they are living at the edge of their acclimatory potential and that this valuable source of thermally tolerant genotypes may be lost in the near future under climate change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2428
JournalScientific reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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