Pochon et al. 2015

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Depth specialization in mesophotic corals (Leptoseris spp.) and associated algal symbionts in Hawai‘i

Pochon X, Forsman ZH, Spalding HL, Padilla-Gamiño JL, Smith CM, Gates RD

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Corals at the lower limits of mesophotic habitats are likely to have unique photosynthetic adaptations that allow them to persist and dominate in these extreme low light ecosystems. We examined the host–symbiont relationships from the dominant coral genus Leptoseris in mesophotic environments from Hawai‘i collected by submersibles across a depth gradient of 65–125 m. Coral and Symbiodinium genotypes were compared with three distinct molecular markers including coral (COX1–1-rRNA intron) and Symbiodinium (COI) mitochondrial markers and nuclear ITS2. The phylogenetic reconstruction clearly resolved five Leptoseris species, including one species (Leptoseris hawaiiensis) exclusively found in deeper habitats (115–125 m). The Symbiodinium mitochondrial marker resolved three unambiguous haplotypes in clade C, which were found at significantly different frequencies between host species and depths, with one haplotype exclusively found at the lower mesophotic extremes (95–125 m). These patterns of host–symbiont depth specialization indicate that there are limits to connectivity between upper and lower mesophotic zones, suggesting that niche specialization plays a critical role in host–symbiont evolution at mesophotic extremes.

Research sites

10.1098   rsos.140351
Depth range
65- 125 m

Mesophotic “mentions”
38 x (total of 5511 words)

Molecular ecology Connectivity Evolution

Research focus
Scleractinia (Hard Corals) Symbiodinium (zooxanthellae)

USA - Hawaii

Research platforms
Manned Submersible
Author profiles
Xavier Pochon ( 4 pubs)
Heather Spalding ( 11 pubs)