Mass et al. 2010

scientific article | J Exp Biol | open access Open access small

The spectral quality of light is a key driver of photosynthesis and photoadaptation in Stylophora pistillata colonies from different depths in the Red Sea

Mass T, Kline DI, Roopin M, Veal CJ, Cohen S, Iluz D, Levy O

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Depth zonation on coral reefs is largely driven by the amount of downwelling, photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) that is absorbed by the symbiotic algae (zooxanthellae) of corals. The minimum light requirements of zooxanthellae are related to both the total intensity of downwelling PAR and the spectral quality of the light. Here we used Stylophora pistillata colonies collected from shallow (3 m) and deep (40 m) water; colonies were placed in a respirometer under both ambient PAR irradiance and a filter that only transmits blue light. We found that the colonies exhibited a clear difference in their photosynthetic rates when illuminated under PAR and filtered blue light, with higher photosynthetic performance when deep colonies were exposed to blue light compared with full-spectrum PAR for the same light intensity and duration. By contrast, colonies from shallow water showed the opposite trend, with higher photosynthetic performances under full-spectrum PAR than under filtered blue light. These findings are supported by the absorption spectra of corals, with deeper colonies absorbing higher energy wavelengths than the shallow colonies, with different spectral signatures. Our results indicate that S. pistillata colonies are chromatically adapted to their surrounding light environment, with photoacclimation probably occurring via an increase in photosynthetic pigments rather than algal density. The spectral properties of the downwelling light are clearly a crucial component of photoacclimation that should be considered in future transplantation and photoacclimation studies.

Research sites

10.1242   jeb.039891
Depth range
3- 40 m

Mesophotic “mentions”
0 x (total of 6546 words)


Research focus
Scleractinia (Hard Corals) Symbiodinium (zooxanthellae)

Israel - Red Sea

Research platforms
Diving - Regular Open-Circuit
Author profiles
Itay Cohen ( 3 pubs)
David Kline ( 2 pubs)
Tali Mass ( 3 pubs)