Biogeographic partitioning and host specialization among foraminiferan dinoflagellate symbionts (Symbiodinium; Dinophyta)

X. Pochon, T. C. LaJeunesse, J. Pawlowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

107 Scopus citations


Large discoidal soritid foraminiferans (Soritinae) are abundant in coral reef ecosystems. As with the many cnidarian invertebrates that inhabit these systems, they also depend on symbiotic dinoflagellates (Symbiodinium) for their growth and survival. Several particular Symbiodinium sub-genera or clades inhabit these soritids. One of these groups, referred to as clade C, dominates corals and their relatives throughout the tropical Indo-Pacific. In contrast, the distributions of Symbiodinium spp. from clades A, B, and C are more evenly apportioned across Caribbean invertebrate communities. To explore the possibility that a similar biogeographic break exists in the symbionts harbored by soritids, we surveyed the Symbiodinium spp. from the soritid genus Sorites, collected from the Pacific and Caribbean coasts of Panama as well as from Florida. Characterization of Symbiodinium obtained from foraminiferal and cnidarian samples was conducted using restriction fragment length polymorphism and phylogenetic analyses of the nuclear internal transcribed spacer region 2 (ITS 2) and a portion of the large subunit ribosomal DNA sequences. A distinctive biogeographic break between the kinds of symbionts found in Sorites from the East Pacific and Caribbean was clearly evident. Differences between cnidarian and foraminferan symbioses in each ocean may be explained by the subjection of Caribbean communities to severer environmental conditions during the early Quarternary. Caribbean Sorites spp. harbored symbionts described from clade F (specifically sub-clade Fr4) and clade H (formally referred to as Fr1), while Sorites spp. from the eastern Pacific were dominated by a single Symbiodinium haplotype in clade C. An ITS 2 phylogeny determined that most clade C "types" recovered from Indo-Pacific soritids form a monophyletic sub-lineage with other clade C symbionts typically found in Pacific corals from the genus Porites. The existence of multiple Symbiodinium lineages at various taxonomic levels associated specifically with soritids indicates that symbioses with these hosts are important in driving Symbiodinium spp. evolution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)17-27
Number of pages11
JournalMarine Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology


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