Anemonefish facilitate bleaching recovery in a host sea anemone

Sophie H. Pryor, Ross Hill, Danielle L. Dixson, Nicola J. Fraser, Brendan P. Kelaher, Anna Scott

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Abstract

Ocean warming is causing the symbioses between cnidarians and their algal symbionts to breakdown more frequently, resulting in bleaching. For sea anemones, nutritional benefits derived from hosting anemonefishes increase their algal symbiont density. The sea anemone-anemonefish relationship could, therefore, facilitate bleaching recovery. To test this, bleached and unbleached sea anemones, both with and without anemonefish, were monitored in the laboratory. At the start of our experiment, algal symbiont density and colour score were lower in the bleached than unbleached sea anemones, whereas total chlorophyll remained similar. After 106 days, bleached sea anemones with anemonefish had an algal symbiont density and colour score equal to the controls (unbleached sea anemones and without anemonefish), indicating recovery had occurred. Furthermore, total chlorophyll was 66% higher in the bleached sea anemones with anemonefish than the controls. In contrast, recovery did not occur for the bleached sea anemones without anemonefish as they had 78% fewer algal symbionts than the controls, and colour score remained lower. Unbleached sea anemones with anemonefish also showed positive changes in algal symbiont density and total chlorophyll, which increased by 103% and 264%, respectively. Consequently, anemonefishes give their host sea anemones a distinct ecological advantage by enhancing resilience to bleaching, highlighting the benefits of symbioses in a changing climate.
Original languageEnglish
Article number18586
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalScientific Reports
Volume10
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 29 Oct 2020

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