The evolutionary history of Symbiodinium and scleractinian hosts - symbiosis, diversity, and the effect of climate change

Michael Stat*, Dee Carter, Ove Hoegh-Guldberg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

204 Citations (Scopus)


Marine invertebrates representing at least five phyla are symbiotic with dinoflagellates from the genus Symbiodinium. This group of single-celled protists was once considered to be a single pandemic species, Symbiodinium microadriaticum. Molecular investigations over the past 25 years have revealed, however, that Symbiodinium is a diverse group of organisms with at least eight (A-H) divergent clades that in turn contain multiple molecular subclade types. The diversity within this genus may subsequently determine the response of corals to normal and stressful conditions, leading to the proposal that the symbiosis may impart unusually rapid adaptation to environmental change by the metazoan host. These questions have added importance due to the critical challenges that corals and the reefs they build face as a consequence of current rapid climate change. This review outlines our current understanding of the diverse genus Symbiodinium and explores the ability of this genus and its symbioses to adapt to rapid environmental change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-43
Number of pages21
JournalPerspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 27 Sep 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • coevolution
  • coral bleaching
  • dinoflagellate
  • rDNA
  • Symbiodinium
  • symbiosis


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