Rapid recruitment of symbiotic algae into developing scleractinian coral tissues

Thomas Bockel, Baruch Rinkevich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


While the early acquisition of Symbiodiniaceae algae into coral host tissues has been extensively studied, the dynamics of the migration of algal cells into rapidly expanding coral tissues still lacks a systematic study. This work examined two Red Sea branching coral species, Pocillopora damicornis and Stylophora pistillata, as they were growing and expanding their tissue laterally on glass slides (January-June, 2014; 450 assays; five colonies/species). We measured lateral tissue expansion rates and intratissue dinoflagellate migration rates. Tissue growth rates significantly differed between the two species (with Stylophora faster than Pocillopora), but not between genotypes within a species. Using a "flow-through coral chamber" under the microscope, the migration of dinoflagellates towards the peripheral edges of the expanding coral tissue was quantified. On a five-day timescale, the density of the endosymbiotic dinoflagellate cells, presenting within a 90 μm region of expanding coral tissue (outer edge), increased by a factor of 23.6 for Pocillopora (from 1.2 × 104 cells cm-2 to 2.4 × 105 cells cm-2) and by a factor of 6.8 for Stylophora (from 3.6 × 104 cells cm-2 to 2.4 × 105 cells cm-2). The infection rates were fast (5.2 × 104 and 4.1 × 104 algal cells day-1 cm-2, respectively), further providing evidence of an as yet unknown pathway of algal movement within coral host tissues.

Original languageEnglish
Article number306
JournalJournal of Marine Science and Engineering
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 by the authors.


  • Algal movement
  • Coral tissue
  • Endosymbiont proliferation
  • Lateral skeleton preparative
  • Nubbin assay
  • Pocillopora
  • Red Sea
  • Stylophora
  • Symbiodiniaceae

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Ocean Engineering


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