Nutrient cycling in early coral life stages: Pocillopora damicornis larvae provide their algal symbiont (Symbiodinium) with nitrogen acquired from bacterial associates

Ceh, Janja, Kilburn, Matt R., Cliff, John B., Raina, Jean-Baptiste, van Keulen, Mike, and Bourne, David G. (2013) Nutrient cycling in early coral life stages: Pocillopora damicornis larvae provide their algal symbiont (Symbiodinium) with nitrogen acquired from bacterial associates. Ecology and Evolution, 3 (8). pp. 2393-2400.

PDF (Published Version) - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

Download (1MB) | Preview
View at Publisher Website:


The waters surrounding coral reef ecosystems are generally poor in nutrients, yet their levels of primary production are comparable with those reported from tropical rain forests. One explanation of this paradox is the efficient cycling of nutrients between the coral host, its endosymbiotic alga Symbiodinium and a wide array of microorganisms. Despite their importance for the animals' fitness, the cycling of nutrients in early coral life stages and the initial establishment of partnerships with the microbes involved in these processes has received little scrutiny to date. Nitrogen is an essential but limited nutrient in coral reef ecosystems. In order to assess the early nutrient exchange between bacteria and corals, coral larvae of the species Pocillopora damicornis were incubated with two coral-associated bacteria (Alteromonas sp., or Vibrio alginolyticus), prelabeled with the stable nitrogen isotope N-15. The incorporation and translocation of nitrogen from Vibrio- and Alteromonas bacteria into P. damicornis coral larvae and specifically into the coral-symbiotic Symbiodinium were detected by nanoscale secondary ion mass spectrometry (NanoSIMS). A significant increase in the amount of enriched N-15 (two to threefold compared to natural abundance) was observed in P. damicornis larvae within 8h of incubation for both bacterial treatments (one-way ANOVA, F-5,F-53=18.03, P=0.004 for Alteromonas sp. and F-5,F-53=18.03, P=0.0001 for V. alginolyticus). These findings reveal that coral larvae acquire nutrients previously taken up from the environment by bacteria. The additional nitrogen may increase the survival rate and fitness of the developing coral and therefore contribute to the successful maintenance of coral reefs.

Item ID: 30161
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2045-7758
Keywords: bacteria, coral larvae, nanoSIMS, nitrogen
Additional Information:

© 2013 The Authors. Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Date Deposited: 13 Nov 2013 05:28
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology) @ 30%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0605 Microbiology > 060504 Microbial Ecology @ 40%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0606 Physiology > 060603 Animal Physiology Systems @ 30%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences @ 100%
Downloads: Total: 1397
Last 12 Months: 85
More Statistics

Actions (Repository Staff Only)

Item Control Page Item Control Page