Genetic diversity of symbiodinium in selected corals in the Western Indian Ocean.
Starzak, Dorota Ewa.
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Coastal communities along the east African coastline rely on coral reefs and their associated resources for food security and income. However, increases in the frequency and severity of episodes of coral bleaching have resulted in mass coral moralities in many locations around the world including the western Indian Ocean (WIO). Reef corals obligately host dinoflagellate algal symbionts of the genus Symbiodinium. Coral bleaching is caused by the loss of these symbionts from the host, resulting from a variety of stresses, the major ones being increased seawater temperature and irradiance. The Symbiodinum genus is diverse and the distribution of symbionts is influenced by the host biology, external light environment and geographic location. Ten distinct clades of Symbiodinium have been identified. Although the Caribbean and Great Barrier Reef have been studied intensively with respect to Symbiodinium diversity in many locations in the WIO Symbiodinium diversity is unknown. The aim of this study was to determine diversity, distribution and prevalence of Symbiodinium types in corals along the east African coastline. The Symbiodinium ssrDNA region was analysed using restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) in order to assess the cladal diversity of Symbiodinium. The results showed all samples analysed to belong to clade C. To gain more insight into Symbiodinium genetic diversity, the ITS region was employed to assess Symbiodinium diversity at the subcladal level. Twenty ITS types were identified. The most prevalent type was found to be subclade C1. No phylogeographic structuring was found amongst the symbiont types, however, specificity of symbiont types to coral hosts was demonstrated indicating potential susceptibility to perturbations such as increased seawater temperature.