Population dynamics of zooxanthellae during a bacterial bleaching event

N. Shenkar*, M. Fine, E. Kramarsky-Winter, Y. Loya

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Each summer 80-90% of the colonies of Oculina patagonica undergo bleaching off the Mediterranean coast of Israel. To investigate fluctuations through a yearly bleaching cycle, monthly measurements of zooxanthella density, mitotic index and chlorophyll-a concentration were conducted. Results showed (1) a significant negative correlation between sea surface temperature (SST) and zooxanthella density; (2) both significantly lower zooxanthella mitotic index and higher chlorophyll-a per zooxanthella content during the bleaching season compared with the non-bleaching period; (3) prior to bleaching, a lag between the peak of zooxanthella density and chlorophyll-a concentration followed by a similar lag during recovery. Zooxanthella density declined significantly between March and May while chlorophyll-a concentration peaked in April, and then declined. Zooxanthella density increased significantly in November while chlorophyll-a concentration increased significantly in January. We conclude that during bacterial bleaching events, zooxanthellae are severely damaged. However, by the time of the following bleaching event the coral tissues regain their "normal" (pre-bleaching) zooxanthella population density.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)223-227
Number of pages5
JournalCoral Reefs
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2006
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments We are indebted to Y. Aluma, R. Tzadok and A. Glazer for their technical help in the field. We are grateful to N. Paz for editorial assistance and A. Shoob for photography. This research was supported by the Israel Science Foundation (ISF) and the Raynor Chair for Environmental Conservation Research to YL.


  • Chl a
  • Coral bleaching
  • Mediterranean Sea
  • Oculina patagonica
  • Vibrio shiloi
  • Zooxanthellae


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