African Journal of Marine Science

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Differential effects of thermal and chemical stressors on tissue balls from scleractinian corals

S Mattan-Moorgawa, G Poonet, R Bhagooli, S Rughooputh


Coral cell aggregates (tissue balls) from four species (Acropora muricata, Fungia repanda, Pavona cactus and Pocillopora damicornis) were used as an indicator to investigate the effects on the corals of thermal stress and of chemical extracts from three sponges (Adocia sp., Haliclona sp. and Lissodendoryx sp.) and one ascidian (Didemnum molle). The formation and disintegration of tissue balls were studied through exposure to a temperature range of 23–30 °C at time intervals of 0–90 min, and to sponge and ascidian crude extracts at concentrations of 50–200 μg ml–1 at temperatures of 23 and 30 °C and at time intervals of 10, 60 and 120 min. The negative effect of temperature on overall tissue ball density (number per cm2 of coral surface) was greatest at higher temperatures (28 and 30 °C) but varied among coral species. Tissue balls of P. damicornis were the most robust whereas those of A. muricata were the most sensitive. High concentrations of extracts of Adocia sp., Haliclona sp. and Lissodendoryx sp. generally inhibited the formation of tissue balls or caused their disintegration, or both, most markedly at 30 °C. Adocia sp. induced the least negative effects and Haliclona sp. the most. No tissue balls were formed in the presence of D. molle extracts (50 and 100 μg ml–1), indicating a high level of interference with tissue ball formation. The differential susceptibility to thermal and chemical stressors exhibited by the corals under study have possible implications for the interactions of the corals with other sedentary reef organisms under climate change-driven ocean warming.

Keywords: Ascidia, chemical ecology, coral cell aggregates, sponges, thermal stress, zooxanthellae

African Journal of Marine Science 2014, 36(4): 439–447
AJOL African Journals Online