Structure and Function of Symbiodinium sp. in Marine Invertebrates

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

M.S. Marine Biology

First Advisor

Patricia Blackwelder

Second Advisor

Jose V. Lopez


Symbiodinium sp. are unicellular, dinoflagellate algae that encompass the most prolific endosymbiote in marine ecosystems today, Symbiodinium sp, are found in a diverse assemblage of marine invertebrates, the most common being corals, The relationship they have with corals is subject to debate because of the positive and negative effects of this relationship, However, it is generally considered to be mutualistic, Symbiodinium provide the coral host with food while the coral provides the algae with protection, shelter, and a constant supply of nutrients for photosynthesis, These dinoflagellates have two life forms, a motile mastigote cell and a nonmotile coccoid cell. Symbiodinium contain chloroplasts in their tissues which undergo photosynthesis to provide nourishment for the host organism, Hosts gain symbionts either horizontally, or from the environment, or vertically, which means passed from parent to offspring, It has been displayed that most symbionts are acquired vertically and horizontally in cnidarians and other phyla utilize horizontal transmission, Symbiodinium have evolved much through history and the success of scleractinian corals can be attributed to the co-evolution of Symbiodinium and corals, A study is also included in this paper that illustrates the effects on high light and high temperature on cultured Symbiodinium cells versus control Symbiodinium cells, A variety of parameters were measured including cell diameters and various organelle surface areas, There are many mechanisms that occur within these algal cells including photosynthetic processes and the transfer of the photosynthate, Symbiodinium sp. are integral components of coral reef ecosystems and occupy a diverse number of marine hosts, The field of molecular genetics is advancing very rapidly, A greater understanding through experimentation with Symbiodinium sp, is needed in both laboratory and field settings, Much research on this topic is still necessary because any of the mechanisms involved are poorly understood. However, these organisms are at the base of the coral reef ecosystem food chain and are therefore important functioning components.

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