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UNDERSTANDING CORAL REEF SYSTEMS

  • To understand coral reefs as the systems they are, it’s necessary to understand not only the molecular mechanisms involved in the biology of the coral but also that of their live-in (endosymbiotic) algae. So, it’s essential to have genomic information on both the coral host and its algae symbiont.

Species of algae in the genus Symbiodinium make up the largest and most prevalent group of endosymbiotic eukaryotic microbes found in coral reef ecosystems. [Wikipedia]

In July 2013, the Marine Genomics Unit of the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) in Japan published (in Current Biology) the genome of the algae Symbiodinium minutum.

The OIST Marine Genomics Unit had already, in 2011, decoded the approximately 420-megabase genome of the coral Acropora digitifera for the first time.
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IMAGES [from the press release / Current Biology article]

[1] Coral polyps with Symbiodinium growing on them.  [2a] [2b] Free-swimming larva of the coral Acropora digitifera larva (green) and the symbiont Symbiodinium (red spots)  [3] Phylogenetic relationship between these corals and the Symbiodinium[4] Neither organism can survive without the healthy presence of the other. Symbiodinium receives CO2 and a stable, safe living environment from the coral host, while the coral benefits from oxygen and nutrients produced from the symbiont.

SOURCE: OIST press release  |||  You can also read the press release at PhysOrg: A coral symbiont genome decoded for first time.

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