Zoological Studies

Vol. 54, 2015

High tolerance of symbiotic larvae of Pocillopora damicornis to thermal stress

Dwi Haryanti1*, Naoko Yasuda1 , Saki Harii2 and Michio Hidaka1

1Department of Chemistry, Biology and Marine Science, University of the Ryukyus, Nishihara, Okinawa 903-0213, Japan
2Sesoko Station, Tropical Biosphere Research Center, University of the Ryukyus, Motobu, Okinawa 905-0227, Japan

Background: When coral planulae, which use a horizontal mode of symbiont transmission, are inoculated with Symbiodinium, they suffer greater oxidative stress under strong light or high-temperature stress than non-symbiotic counterparts. Thus, dinoflagellate symbionts may become a source of reactive oxygen species (ROS) under stress. However, it remains unknown whether vertically transmitted symbionts negatively affect coral larvae under stress. We investigated the thermal tolerance of symbiotic planulae of a vertical transmitter coral, Pocillopora damicornis.
P. damicornis larvae, which have a large number of symbionts, survived the high-temperature treatment (32 C) for 2 weeks. Significant reductions in Symbiodinium cell density were observed, but these did not lead to increased mortality of planulae during the 2-week experimental period. Although no significant difference was detected in the percentage of apoptotic cells between temperature treatment groups, pre-bleaching larvae exposed to 31 C tended to exhibit higher percentages of apoptotic (TUNEL-positive) cells in the gastrodermis than 32 C-treated larvae, which contained reduced numbers of Symbiodinium cells.
Conclusions: Symbiotic larvae of P. damicornis survived well under high-temperature conditions, although their Symbiodinium cell density decreased. This suggests that P. damicornis larvae have the capacity to reduce the symbiont cell density without a harmful effect on their survivorship under thermal stress. Further studies on antioxidant systems and possible suppression of apoptotic pathways are necessary to elucidate the mechanism underlying the high thermal tolerance of symbiotic larvae of P. damicornis.

Key words: Apoptosis; Bleaching; Coral; Larvae; Survivorship; Symbiosis.

*Correspondence: E-mail: dwiharyanti@gmail.com