A tentacle for every occasion: Comparing the hunting tentacles and sweeper tentacles, used for territorial competition, in the coral Galaxea fascicularis

Oshra Yosef, Yotam Popovits, Assaf Malik, Maya Ofek-Lalzer, Tali Mass, Daniel Sher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Coral reefs are among the most diverse, complex and densely populated marine ecosystems. To survive, morphologically simple and sessile cnidarians have developed mechanisms to catch prey, deter predators and compete with adjacent corals for space, yet the mechanisms underlying these functions are largely unknown. Here, we characterize the histology, toxic activity and gene expression patterns in two different types of tentacles from the scleractinian coral Galaxea fascilcularis - catch tentacles (CTs), used to catch prey and deter predators, and sweeper tentacles (STs), specialized tentacles used for territorial aggression. Results: STs exhibit more mucocytes and higher expression of mucin genes than CTs, and lack the ectodermal cilia used to deliver food to the mouth and remove debris. STs and CTs also express different sensory rhodopsin-like g-protein coupled receptors, suggesting they may employ different sensory pathways. Each tentacle type has a different complement of stinging cells (nematocytes), and the expression in the two tentacles of genes encoding structural nematocyte proteins suggests the stinging cells develop within the tentacles. CTs have higher neurotoxicity to blowfly larvae and hemolytic activity compared to the STs, consistent with a role in prey capture. In contrast, STs have higher phospholipase A2 activity, which we speculate may have a role in inducing tissue damage during territorial aggression. The expression of genes encoding cytolytic toxins (actinoporins) and phospholipases also differs between the tentacle types. Conclusions: These results show that the same organism utilizes two distinct tentacle types, each equipped with a different venom apparatus and toxin composition, for prey capture and defense and for territorial aggression.

Original languageEnglish
Article number548
JournalBMC Genomics
Volume21
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 8 Aug 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Author(s).

Keywords

  • Coral
  • Histology
  • Tentacle
  • Territorial aggression
  • Transcriptome
  • Venom

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Biotechnology

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