HCNSO Student Theses and Dissertations

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

M.S. Marine Biology

First Advisor

Joana Figueiredo, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Nicole Fogarty, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Andrew Baker, Ph.D.


The ability of corals to build reefs can be attributed to their relationship with single-celled algae of the familySymbiodiniaceae.Through the process of photosynthesis, these algae can provide their coral hosts with over 90% of their daily energy requirements. Most coral species acquire multiple species of symbionts from the surrounding water during their larval stage or immediately after settling. However, over time, the coral will select a dominant symbiont speciesthat can depend on the local environment. Until this study, the size or age of the coral at which this transition from multiple Symbiodiniaceaespecies to one dominant species occurs has remained uncertain. Likewise, it was unclear whether the selection of Symbiodiniaceaespeciesis influenced by the environment. The environmental conditions and symbiont composition of one hundred and eighteen juvenile Siderastrea siderea were assessed across four sites in Broward County, Florida. Presuming newly settled corals acquire multiple symbionts and then select just one dominant species, it was determined that the transition from multiple symbiont speciesto one dominant species in Siderastrea sidereaoccurs in the single polyp stage, between the time of settlement and approximately 4 to 6 months of age. The results also suggest that the selection of these dominant symbiont speciesis influenced by the environment, and that juveniles commonly select the same species as adults inhabiting similar environmental conditions. The selection of symbionts homologous to adult corals combined with environmental influences may be an early indicator of acclimatization in Siderastrea siderea.