Publications

Bongaerts et al. 2015


scientific_article | Sci Rep

Deep down on a Caribbean reef: lower mesophotic depths harbor a specialized coral-endosymbiont community

Bongaerts P, Frade PR, Hay KB, Englebert N, Latijnhouwers KRW, Bak RPM, Vermeij MJA, Hoegh-Guldberg O


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Abstract

The composition, ecology and environmental conditions of mesophotic coral ecosystems near the lower limits of their bathymetric distributions remain poorly understood. Here we provide the first in-depth assessment of a lower mesophotic coral community (60–100 m) in the Southern Caribbean through visual submersible surveys, genotyping of coral host-endosymbiont assemblages, temperature monitoring and a growth experiment. The lower mesophotic zone harbored a specialized coral community consisting of predominantly Agaricia grahamae, Agaricia undata and a “deep-water” lineage of Madracis pharensis, with large colonies of these species observed close to their lower distribution limit of ~90 m depth. All three species associated with “deep-specialist” photosynthetic endosymbionts (Symbiodinium). Fragments of A. grahamae exhibited growth rates at 60 m similar to those observed for shallow Agaricia colonies (~2–3 cm yr−1), but showed bleaching and (partial) mortality when transplanted to 100 m. We propose that the strong reduction of temperature over depth (Δ5°C from 40 to 100 m depth) may play an important contributing role in determining lower depth limits of mesophotic coral communities in this region. Rather than a marginal extension of the reef slope, the lower mesophotic represents a specialized community, and as such warrants specific consideration from science and management.

Research sites

10.1038   srep07652
Keywords
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Meta-data
Depth range
60- 100 m

Mesophotic “relevance”
97x mentions

Word count
6289 words

Fields
Community structure Biodiversity Ecology Molecular ecology

Research focus
Scleractinia (Hard Corals) Symbiodinium (zooxanthellae)

Locations
Curaçao

Research platforms
Manned Submersible
Author profiles
Rolf Bak ( 15 pubs)
Pim Bongaerts ( 23 pubs)
Norbert Englebert ( 8 pubs)
Pedro Frade ( 6 pubs)
Mark Vermeij ( 7 pubs)
Research sites (dec deg)
Curaçao
Seaquarium reef
Lat: 12.084 Long: -68.898

Curaçao
Buoy 0/1
Lat: 12.125 Long: -68.974