Recent reports of worldwide coral bleaching events leading to devastating coral mortality have caused alarm among scientists and resource managers. Differential survival of coral species through bleaching events has been widely documented. We suggest that among the possible factors contributing to survival of coral species during such events are endolithic algae harboured in their skeleton, providing an alternative source of energy. We studied the dynamics of photosynthetic pigment concentrations and biomass of endoliths in the skeleton of the encrusting coral Oculina patagonica throughout a bleaching event. During repeated summer bleaching events these endolithic algae receive increased photosynthetically active radiation, increase markedly in biomass, and produce increasing amounts of photoassimilates, which are translocated to the coral. Chlorophyll concentrations and biomass of endoliths were 4.6 ± 1.57 and 1570 ± 427 μg cm-2 respectively, in skeletons of relatively healthy colonies (0-40% bleaching) but up to 14.8 ± 2.5 and 4036 ± 764 μg cm-2 endolith chlorophyll and biomass respectively, in skeletons of bleached colonies (greater than 40% bleaching). The translocation dynamics of 14C-labelled photoassimilates from the endoliths to bleached coral tissue showed significantly higher 14C activity of the endoliths harboured within the skeletons of bleached corals than that of the endoliths in non-bleached corals. This alternative source of energy may be vital for the survivorship of O. patagonica, allowing gradual recruitment of zooxanthellae and subsequent recovery during the following winter.
|Number of pages
|Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
|Published - 22 Jun 2002
- Endolithic algae
- Oculina patagonica