The red coralline alga Hydrolithon onkodes, an attractor of coral larvae, is photosynthetically more susceptible to thermal stress than Lithophyllum incrustans




Abstract. Perrine MJS, Mundil S, Kaullysing D, Bhagooli R. 2023. The red coralline alga Hydrolithon onkodes, an attractor of coral larvae, is photosynthetically more susceptible to thermal stress than Lithophyllum incrustans. Indo Pac J Ocean Life 7: 91-99. Red Coralline Algae (RCAs) are important components of coral reefs and are involved in reef-building via calcification, cementation, the synthesis of anti-fouling compounds and of chemicals to aid recruitment, settlement and metamorphosis of reef species. This study aimed to investigate the distribution of RCAs at four sites around Mauritius Island and the effects of thermal stress on the effective photosynthetic yield of photosystem II (FPSII) of two species of RCA namely, Lithophyllum incrustans (Philippi, 1837) and Hydrolithon onkodes, known to attract coral larvae. Out of the nine RCA species observed, two non-geniculate RCAs, H. onkodes and L. incrustans, were among the most dominant, especially at the lagoonal and reef zones of the four studied sites Flic en Flac, Belle Mare, Trou aux Biches and Flat Island. These two RCAs were collected, acclimated for 24 hours on a 12h:12h dark-light cycle and then exposed to 27°C, 30°C and 33°C for 3 (T3), 6 (T6) and 19 (T19) hours. After 3, 6 and 19 hours, relative change in FPSII compared to initial (T0) was used for comparison among tested species. At 27°C the FPSII did not fluctuate significantly during the experiment for both RCAs. At a temperature 30°C only H. onkodes significantly decreased from 0.541 ± 0.54 at T0 to 0.445 ± 0.116 at T19. At 33°C, L. incrustans showed a significant decline of 24.82 ± 7.4% while H. onkodes decreased by 90 ± 12.6%. Visual observations revealed that H. onkodes changed from the initial healthy-looking color of light grey to pale purple after thermal exposure. These findings indicate that the coral larvae-attracting H. onkodes is more susceptible than the L. incrustans to thermal stress, implying subsequent possible impacts on coral recruitment process especially in the wake of climate change-driven ocean warming.



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