Study on expelled but viable zooxanthellae from giant clams, with an emphasis on their potential as subsequent symbiont sources
PLoSONE_14_e0220141.pdf 2.91 MB
ZhiQin Quek, Vanessa
Unlike most bivalve shellfishes, giant clams (tridacnines) harbor symbiotic microalgae (zooxanthellae) in their fleshy bodies. Zooxanthellae are not maternally inherited by tridacnine offspring, hence, the larvae must acquire zooxanthellae from external sources, although such algal populations or sources in the environment are currently unknown. It is well known that giant clams expel fecal pellets that contain viable zooxanthellae cells, but whether these cells are infectious or just an expelled overpopulation from the giant clams has not been investigated. In this study, we observed the ultrastructural and photosynthetic competencies of zooxanthellae in the fecal pellets of Tridacna crocea and further tested the ability of these cells to infect T. squamosa juveniles. The ultrastructure of the zooxanthellae cells showed that the cells were intact and had not undergone digestion. Additionally, these zooxanthellae cells showed a maximum quantum yield of photosystem II (Fv/Fm) as high as those retained in the mantle of the giant clam. Under the assumption that feces might provide symbionts to the larvae of other giant clams, fecal pellets from Tridacna squamosa and T. crocea were given to artificially hatched 1-day-old T. squamosa larvae. On the 9th day, 15–34% of the larvae provided with the fecal pellets took up zooxanthellae in their stomach, and on the 14th day, zooxanthellae cells reached the larval margin, indicating the establishment of symbiosis. The rate reaching this stage was highest, ca. 5.3%, in the larvae given whole (nonhomogenized) pellets from T. crocea. The composition of zooxanthellae genera contained in the larvae were similar to those in the fecal pellets, although the abundance ratios were significantly different. This study is the first to demonstrate the potential of giant clam fecal pellets as symbiont vectors to giant clam larvae. These results also demonstrate the possibility that fecal pellets are a source of zooxanthellae in coral reefs.
This work was supported by MEXT/JSPS KAKENHI Grant Number 18K19232 to KK.
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Public Library of Science
© 2019 Morishima et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Graduate School of Integrated Sciences for Life