Symbiodinium diversity among host clionaid sponges from Caribbean and Pacific reefs: Evidence of heteroplasmy and putative host-specific symbiont lineages

M. Hill, A. Allenby, B. Ramsby, Christine Schoenberg, April Hill

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55 Citations (Scopus)


Among the Porifera, symbiosis with Symbiodinium spp. (i.e., zooxanthellae) is largely restricted to members of the family Clionaidae. We surveyed the diversity of zooxanthellae associated with sponges from the Caribbean and greater Indo-Pacific regions using chloroplast large subunit (cp23S) domain V sequences. We provide the first report of Dade C Symbiodinium harbored by a sponge (Cliona caesia), and the first report of Clade A Symbiodinium from an Indo-Pacific sponge (C. jullieni). Clade A zooxanthellae were also identified in sponges from the Caribbean, which has been reported previously. Sponges that we examined from the Florida Keys all harbored Clade G Symbiodinium as did C. orientalis from the Indo-Pacific, which also supports earlier work with sponges. Two distinct Clade G lineages were identified in our phylogenetic analysis; Symbiodinium extracted from clionaid sponges formed a monophyletic group sister to Symbiodinium found in foraminiferans. Truncated and 'normal' length variants of 23S rDNA sequences were detected simultaneously in all three morphotypes of C varians providing the first evidence of chloroplast-based heteroplasmy in a sponge. None of the other sponge species examined showed evidence of heteroplasmy. As in previous work, length variation in cp23S domain V sequences was found to correspond in a highly precise manner to finer resolution of phylogenetic topology among Symbiodinium clades. On a global scale, existing data indicate that members of the family Clionaidae that host zooxanthellae can form symbiotic associations with at least four Symbiodinium clades. The majority of sponge hosts appear to harbor only one cladal type of symbiont, but some species can harbor more than one clade of zooxanthellae concurrently. The observed differences in the number of partners harbored by sponges raise important questions about the degree of coevolutionary integration and specificity of these symbioses. Although our sample sizes are small, we propose that one of the Clade G lineages identified in this study is comprised of sponge-specialist zooxanthellae. These zooxanthellae are common in Caribbean sponges, but additional work in other geographic regions is necessary to test this idea. Sponges from the Indo-Pacific region harbor zooxanthellae from Clades A, C, and G. but more sponges from this region should be examined. (C) 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-88
JournalMolecular Phylogenetics and Evolution
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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