Recognizing diversity in coral symbiotic dinoflagellate communities
A detailed understanding of how diversity in endosymbiotic dinoflagellate communities maps onto the physiological range of coral hosts is critical to predicting how coral reef ecosystems will respond to climate change. Species-level taxonomy of the dinoflagellate genus Symbiodinium has been predominantly examined using the internal transcribed spacer (ITS) region of the nuclear ribosomal array (rDNA ITS2) and downstream screening for dominant types using denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE). Here, ITS2 diversity in the communities of Symbiodinium harboured by two Hawaiian coral species was explored using direct sequencing of clone libraries. We resolved sixfold to eightfold greater diversity per coral species than previously reported, the majority of which corresponds to a novel and distinct phylogenetic lineage. We evaluated how these sequences migrate in DGGE and demonstrate that this method does not effectively resolve this diversity. We conclude that the Porites spp. examined here harbour diverse assemblages of novel Symbiodinium types and that cloning and sequencing is an effective methodological approach for resolving the complexity of endosymbiotic dinoflagellate communities harboured by reef corals.