Garcia-Herrera, Nur ORCID:, Ferse, Sebastian C. A. ORCID:, Kunzmann, Andreas ORCID: and Genin, Amatzia (2017) Mutualistic damselfish induce higher photosynthetic rates in their host coral. The Journal of Experimental Biology, 220 (10). pp. 1803-1811. DOI

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Coral reefs are amongst the most diverse ecosystems on Earth where complex inter-specific interactions are ubiquitous. An example of such interactions is the mutualistic relationship between damselfishes and branching corals in the Northern Red Sea, where the fish use corals as shelter and provide them with nutrients, enhance the flow between their branches, and protect them from predators. By enhancing the flow between the coral branches, the fish ventilate the coral's inner zone, mitigating hypoxic conditions that otherwise develop within that zone during the night. Here, we tested, for the first time, the effects of the damselfish Dascyllus marginatus on photosynthesis and respiration in its host coral Stylophora pistillata. Laboratory experiments using an intermittent-flow respirometer showed that the presence of fish between the coral branches under light conditions augmented the coral's photosynthetic rate. No effect on the coral's respiration was found under dark conditions. When a fish was allowed to enter the inner zone of a dead coral skeleton, its respiration was higher than when it was in a live coral. Field observations indicated that damselfish were present between coral branches 18–34% of the time during daylight hours and at all times during the night. Considering the changes induced by the fish together with the proportion of time they were found between coral branches in the field, the effect of the fish amounted to an augmentation of 3–6% of the coral's daily photosynthesis. Our findings reveal a previously unknown positive contribution of coral-dwelling fish to their host's photosynthesis.

Document Type: Article
Programme Area: UNSPECIFIED
Research affiliation: Ecology > Experimental Aquaculture
Refereed: Yes
Open Access Journal?: No
ISSN: 0022-0949
Date Deposited: 04 Apr 2019 15:01
Last Modified: 01 Oct 2020 12:58

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