Transgenerational inheritance of shuffled symbiont communities in the coral Montipora digitata

Quigley, Kate M., Willis, Bette L., and Kenkel, Carly (2019) Transgenerational inheritance of shuffled symbiont communities in the coral Montipora digitata. Scientific Reports, 9. 13328.

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Adult organisms may "prime" their offspring for environmental change through a number of genetic and non-genetic mechanisms, termed parental effects. Some coral species may shuffle the proportions of Symbiodiniaceae within their endosymbiotic communities, subsequently altering their thermal tolerance, but it is unclear if shuffled communities are transferred to offspring. We evaluated Symbiodiniaceae community composition in tagged colonies of Montipora digitata over two successive annual spawning seasons and the 2016 bleaching event on the Great Barrier Reef. ITS2 amplicon sequencing was applied to four families (four maternal colonies and 10-12 eggs per family) previously sampled and sequenced the year before to characterize shuffling potential in these M. digitata colonies and determine if shuffled abundances were preserved in gametes. Symbiont densities and photochemical efficiencies differed significantly among adults in 2016, suggesting differential responses to increased temperatures. Low-abundance ("background") sequence variants differed more among years than between maternal colonies and offspring. Results indicate that shuffling can occur in a canonically 'stable' symbiosis, and that the shuffled community is heritable. Hence, acclimatory changes like shuffling of the Symbiodiniaceae community are not limited to the lifetime of an adult coral and that shuffled communities are inherited across generations in a species with vertical symbiont transmission. Although previously hypothesized, to our knowledge, this is the first evidence that shuffled Symbiodiniaceae communities (at both the inter- and intra- genera level) can be inherited by offspring and supports the hypothesis that shuffling in microbial communities may serve as a mechanism of rapid coral acclimation to changing environmental conditions.

Item ID: 60562
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2045-2322
Keywords: ecology, microbiology, environmental conditions, coral, symbiodiniaceae
Copyright Information: © The Author(s) 2019. Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit
Funders: US National Science Foundation (NSF), Australian Research Council (ARC)
Date Deposited: 09 Oct 2019 07:39
FoR Codes: 41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4101 Climate change impacts and adaptation > 410102 Ecological impacts of climate change and ecological adaptation @ 100%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960808 Marine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 100%
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