Gould et al. 2021

scientific article | Coral Reefs

Upper-mesophotic and shallow reef corals exhibit similar thermal tolerance, sensitivity and optima

Gould K, Bruno JF, Ju R, Goodbody-Gringley G


The physiology of ectotherms living in marine environments is strongly influenced by their local thermal experience. Scleractinian corals living near their thermal optimums are increasingly vulnerable to bleaching and mortality as oceanic heat waves increase globally. Mesophotic coral ecosystems (MCEs) below 30 m depths are characteristically cooler than adjacent shallow water reefs, which according to theory should result in differential metabolic responses to temperature between depths. How local temperatures influence physiological responses in mesophotic corals is poorly understood. We compared thermal sensitivities of four coral species between a shallow (5–10 m) and upper-mesophotic (30-35 m) reef in Bermuda. Thermal performance curves (TPC) were measured in laboratory mesocosms for four common coral species (Diploria labyrinthiformis, Orbicella franksi, Montastraea cavernosa and Porites astreoides) across a wide range of temperatures (19-36). Our results indicate that the maximum rate of gross photosynthetic (GP) performance (GP-Pmax) and the mean overall photosynthetic rates (GP-lnc) varied significantly among species. In contrast, thermal sensitivity (Pmax, Topt, lnc, E, Eh, or Th) did not vary between depths for conspecifics except for deactivation energy (GP-Eh) in D. labyrinthiformis. Additionally, gross respiration (R) did not differ among species or between depths for any thermal metric. Similar metabolic responses between depths suggest that local adaptation and/or acclimatization to different thermal conditions is likely not occurring. Instead, upper-mesophotic corals in Bermuda do not have lower bleaching thresholds than shallow water conspecifics, but similar thermal sensitivities supporting the potential for MCEs to function as a thermal refuge.

Meta-data (pending validation)
Depth range
8- 35 m

Mesophotic “mentions”
78 x (total of 7721 words)

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


Scleractinia (Hard Corals)


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