Log-linear modeling analysis

Genetic diversity of free-living Symbiodinium in the Caribbean: the importance of habitats and seasons

Although reef corals are dependent of the di- noflagellate Symbiodinium, the large majority of corals spawn gametes that do not contain their vital symbiont. This suggests the existence of a pool of Symbiodinium in the environment, of which surprisingly little is known. Reefs around Curac ̧ao (Caribbean) were sampled for free- living Symbiodinium at three time periods (summer 2009, summer 2010, and winter 2010) to characterize different habitats (water column, coral rubble, sediment, the macroalgae Halimeda spp., Dictyota spp., and Lobophora variegata, and the seagrass Thalassia testudinum) that could serve as environmental sources of symbionts for corals. We detected the common clades of Symbiodinium that engage in symbiosis with Caribbean coral hosts A, B, and C using Symbiodinium-specific primers of the hyper- variable region of the chloroplast 23S ribosomal DNA gene. We also discovered clade G and, for the first time in the Caribbean, the presence of free-living Symbiodinium clades F and H. Additionally, this study expands the habitat range of free-living Symbiodinium as environmental Symbiodinium was detected in T. testudinum seagrass beds. The patterns of association between free-living Symbio- dinium types and habitats were shown to be complex. An interesting, strong association was seen between some clade A sequence types and sediment, suggesting that sediment could be a niche where clade A radiated from a free-living ancestor. Other interesting relationships were seen between sequence types of Symbiodinium clade C with Halimeda spp. and clades B and F with T. testudinium. These relationships highlight the importance of some macroalgae and seagrasses in hosting free-living Symbio- dinium. Finally, studies spanning beyond a 1-yr cycle are needed to further expand on our results in order to better understand the variation of Symbiodinium in the environ- ment through time. All together, results presented here showed that the great diversity of free-living Symbiodinium has a dynamic distribution across habitats and time. 

Data type
Scientific article
Research and monitoring
Geographic location