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Oecologia. 2008 Oct;157(4):593-601. doi: 10.1007/s00442-008-1102-2. Epub 2008 Jul 10.

Feeding sustains photosynthetic quantum yield of a scleractinian coral during thermal stress.

Author information

1
Zentrum für Marine Tropenökologie (ZMT)/Center for Tropical Marine Ecology, Fahrenheitstrasse 6, Bremen, Germany. esther.borell@zmt-bremen.de

Abstract

Thermal resistance of the coral-zooxanthellae symbiosis has been associated with chronic photoinhibition, increased antioxidant activity and protein repair involving high demands of nitrogen and energy. While the relative importance of heterotrophy as a source of nutrients and energy for cnidarian hosts, and as a means of nitrogen acquisition for their zooxanthellae, is well documented, the effect of feeding on the thermal sensitivity of the symbiotic association has been so far overlooked. Here we examine the effect of zooplankton feeding versus starvation on the bleaching susceptibility and photosynthetic activity of photosystem II (PSII) of zooxanthellae in the scleractinian coral Stylophora pistillata in response to thermal stress (daily temperature rises of 2-3 degrees C) over 10 days, employing pulse-amplitude-modulated chlorophyll fluorometry. Fed and starved corals displayed a decrease in daily maximum potential quantum yield (F (v)/F (m)) of PSII, effective quantum yield (F/F (m)') and relative electron transport rates over the course of 10 days. However after 10 days of exposure to elevated temperature, F (v)/F (m) of fed corals was still 50-70% higher than F (v)/F (m) of starved corals. Starved corals showed strong signs of chronic photoinhibition, which was reflected in a significant decline in nocturnal recovery rates of PSII relative to fed corals. This was paralleled by the progressive inability to dissipate excess excitation energy via non-photochemical quenching (NPQ). After 10 days, NPQ of starved corals had decreased by about 80% relative to fed corals. Feeding treatment had no significant effect on chlorophyll a and c (2) concentrations and zooxanthellae densities, but the mitotic indices were significantly lower in starved than in fed corals. Collectively the results indicate that exogenous food may reduce the photophysiological damage of zooxanthellae that typically leads to bleaching and could therefore play an important role in mediating the thermal resistance of some corals.

PMID:
18618148
DOI:
10.1007/s00442-008-1102-2
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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