Irradiance driven trophic plasticity in the coral Madracis pharensis from the Eastern Mediterranean

Gretchen Goodbody-Gringley, Stephane Martinez, Jessica Bellworthy, Alex Chequer, Hagai Nativ, Tali Mass

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The distribution of symbiotic scleractinian corals is driven, in part, by light availability, as host energy demands are partially met through translocation of photosynthate. Physiological plasticity in response to environmental conditions, such as light, enables the expansion of resilient phenotypes in the face of changing environmental conditions. Here we compared the physiology, morphology, and taxonomy of the host and endosymbionts of individual Madracis pharensis corals exposed to dramatically different light conditions based on colony orientation on the surface of a shipwreck at 30 m depth in the Bay of Haifa, Israel. We found significant differences in symbiont species consortia, photophysiology, and stable isotopes, suggesting that these corals can adjust multiple aspects of host and symbiont physiology in response to light availability. These results highlight the potential of corals to switch to a predominantly heterotrophic diet when light availability and/or symbiont densities are too low to sustain sufficient photosynthesis, which may provide resilience for corals in the face of climate change.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3646
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - 13 Feb 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2024.


  • Coral symbiosis
  • Mesophotic
  • Morphology
  • Photophysiology
  • Stable Isotopes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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