Depth-dependent photoadaptational responses of the Red Sea zooxanthellate coral (Leptoseris fragilis) were studied down to 160 m from the research submersible GEO. Light saturation curves for photosynthesis revealed, with I C=1-2, I K=10.9 and I sat=20 μE·cm−2·sec−1, the lowest values of photokinetic parameters ever reported for a symbiotic coral. In summer, positive net production occurs only around noon at approx. 100m depth. Biomass parameters of corals at 100–135 m are negatively correlated with depth in algal cell density, protein, chlorophyll and carotenoid but not in pigment ratios or cell based pigment content. Coral size decreased with depth. Corals transplanted from 110–120 m original depth to 40, 70, 90 and 160 m showed high survival after one year. O2-production and dark O2-uptake increased with decreasing transplantation depth. After one year, transplants at 70 and 90 m but not at 40 m had higher algae density and pigment concentrations. The host light-harvesting systems described by Schlichter, Fricke and Weber (1986) are partially destroyed in 40 m but not in 70 and 90 m transplants. Different light exposures alter P-I-responses (P max,/c,/k,/sat) but not biomass parameters, indicating molecular or biochemical adaptation. The coral's optimal light fields lie between 70 to 90 m. Its exceptional bathymetric distribution is linked with the newly discovered host light-harvesting systems which probably enhance photosynthetic performance in a dim environment.
Israel - Red Sea