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PeerJ. 2018 Jun 15;6:e5022. doi: 10.7717/peerj.5022. eCollection 2018.

Relationship between Acropora millepora juvenile fluorescence and composition of newly established Symbiodinium assemblage.

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College of Marine and Environmental Sciences, and ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland, Australia.
AIMS@JCU, Australian Institute of Marine Science, Townsville, Queensland, Australia.
Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology, University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA, United States of America.
Department of Integrative Biology, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX, United States of America.
Contributed equally


Coral-dinoflagellate symbiosis is the key biological interaction enabling existence of modern-type coral reefs, but the mechanisms regulating initial host-symbiont attraction, recognition and symbiont proliferation thus far remain largely unclear. A common reef-building coral, Acropora millepora, displays conspicuous fluorescent polymorphism during all phases of its life cycle, due to the differential expression of fluorescent proteins (FPs) of the green fluorescent protein family. In this study, we examine whether fluorescent variation in young coral juveniles exposed to natural sediments is associated with the uptake of disparate Symbiodinium assemblages determined using ITS-2 deep sequencing. We found that Symbiodinium assemblages varied significantly when redness values varied, specifically in regards to abundances of clades A and C. Whether fluorescence was quantified as a categorical or continuous trait, clade A was found at higher abundances in redder juveniles. These preliminary results suggest juvenile fluorescence may be associated with Symbiodinium uptake, potentially acting as either an attractant to ecologically specific types or as a mechanism to modulate the internal light environment to control Symbiodinium physiology within the host.


Acropora millepora; Fluorescence; ITS-2; Symbiodinium

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare there are no competing interests.

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