Nir et al. 2011

scientific article | Coral Reefs

Changes in scleractinian coral Seriatopora hystrix morphology and its endocellular Symbiodinium characteristics along a bathymetric gradient from shallow to mesophotic reef

Nir O, Gruber DF, Einbinder S, Kark S, Tchernov D


The algae living endosymbiotically within coral are thought to increase algal pigmentation with increasing depth to capture the diminishing light. Here, we follow distribution of the hermatypic coral Seriatopora hystrix along a 60-m bathymetric gradient in the Gulf of Eilat, Red Sea, to study coral ecophysiology and response to light regimes. Combining work on coral morphology, pigment content and genotyping of the photosymbiont, we found that total chlorophyll concentration per zooxanthellae cell and the dark- and light-acclimated quantum yield of photosystem II did not vary significantly along the 60-m gradient. However, the chlorophyll a/c ratio increased with depth. This suggests that the symbiotic algae in S. hystrix possess a mechanism for acclimatization or adaptation that differs from previously described pathways. The accepted photoacclimatory process involves an increase in chlorophyll content per alga as light intensity decreases. Based on corallite and branch morphology, this research suggests that S. hystrix has two depth-dependent ecophenotypes. Above 10 m depth, S. hystrix exhibits sturdier colony configurations with thick branches, while below 30 m depth, colonies are characterized by thin branches and the presence of a larger polyp area. Between 10 and 30 m depth, both ecophenotypes are present, suggesting that corallite morphology may act as another axis of photoacclimation with depth.

Research sites
Depth range
0- 60 m

Mesophotic “mentions”
5 x (total of 6360 words)

* Presents original data
* Focused on 'mesophotic' depth range
* Focused on 'mesophotic coral ecosystem'

Molecular ecology

Scleractinia (Hard Corals)
Symbiodinium (zooxanthellae)

Israel - Red Sea

SCUBA (open-circuit or unspecified)

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