Coral disease physiology: The impact of Acroporid white syndrome on Symbiodinium

G. Roff*, E. C.E. Kvennefors, K. E. Ulstrup, M. Fine, O. Hoegh-Guldberg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Acroporid white syndrome, a disease-like syndrome from the Great Barrier Reef, results from degenerative host tissue at lesion borders. Tissue preceding lesion borders appears visually healthy, but it is currently unclear whether the endosymbiotic zooxanthellae (Symbiodinium) are physiologically impacted. Compared to healthy colonies, this study found no significant differences in symbiont density, mitotic index or chlorophyll a content in tissue bordering (0 cm), and 8 cm away from white syndrome lesions. Using chlorophyll a fluorescence techniques, the border tissue did not appear to be photosynthetically compromised, and Symbiodinium extracted from this area were photosynthetically competent. Transmission electron microscopy revealed extensive degeneration of host tissues surrounding symbionts in affected areas, however, Symbiodinium cells were structurally intact with no sign of in situ degradation. Collectively, these results suggest that Symbiodinium at white syndrome lesion borders exist in a dynamic intra-cellular state during active host tissue loss, yet remain physiologically uncompromised.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)373-377
Number of pages5
JournalCoral Reefs
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2008

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments We would like to acknowledge P. Ralph for use of the Microscopy-PAM and the advice of two anonymous reviewers for greatly improving the manuscript. The project was supported by funding from the ARC Centre for Excellence for Reef and the Coral Reef Targeted Research Project to OHG.


  • Acropora hyacinthus
  • Coral
  • Disease
  • Symbiodinium
  • White syndrome


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