Temperature and Symbiodinium physiology affect the establishment and development of symbiosis in corals

Vivian R. Cumbo*, Madeleine J. H. Van Oppen, Andrew H. Baird

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    16 Citations (Scopus)
    11 Downloads (Pure)


    Symbiotic associations are ubiquitous in nature. In fact, all eukaryotic species har-bour microbial symbionts that are essential for their health. Often overlooked, symbiosis is an important factor when predicting how organisms might respond to climate change. Some associations are so tight-knit that rapid changes in the environment can lead to extinction of one or both partners. Alternatively, the ability to switch to more stress-tolerant partners can allow for rapid adjustment to environmental change, such as increases in host range size. Here, we outline a mechanism by which symbiotic species that acquire their symbionts anew each generation might adapt to global warming via transgenerational, environmentally mediated changes in host?symbiont partnerships. At temperatures approximating climate change conditions at the end of the century, the larvae of 2 common scleractinian corals established symbiosis with a novel and more thermo-tolerant symbiont. Conversely, the establishment of symbiosis with heat-sensitive symbionts was greatly reduced. Transgenerational change in symbionts is a mechanism by which organisms that engage in flexible mutualistic relationships can rapidly adjust to a changing climate.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)117-127
    Number of pages11
    JournalMarine Ecology Progress Series
    Publication statusPublished - 25 Jan 2018

    Bibliographical note

    © Inter-Research 2018. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


    • acclimatisation
    • Acropora millepora
    • Acropora monticulosa
    • climate change
    • coral reefs
    • larval ecology
    • symbiodinium
    • symbiosis


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