Parrotfish and zooxanthellae: Assessing resilience in Caribbean coral reefs

The study of seed dispersal and pollination is prevailing in terrestrial ecology. Dispersion of gametes and propagules is a key component for the resilience and maintenance of terrestrial and fresh-water ecosystems, where many plant species depend on animals for their dispersal. However, studies of endozoochorous processes in the marine environment are absent. The possibility that plant population dynamics and demography in the marine environment depend of animal vectors, such as fishes and mammals, has not, as far as I know, been considered. A great diversity of environmental Symbiodinium types has been identified. The expulsion of viable symbionts from corals, and via feces of fishes has been hypothesized as the main source. We have been studied the parrotfish Sparisoma viride, one of the most abundant in Caribbean coral reefs, which also carries viable Symbiodinium cells in their feces. We got compelling evidence for the role of S. viride as a major vector for short-distance dispersal of zooxanthellae microalgae in coral reefs. However, a quantitative assessment of viable Symbiodinium in the fish feces has been particularly difficult to accomplish. Currently, we are in process of trying different fluorescent methods and apoptosis kits to detect cellular damage in order to accurately calculate viability just after released. Currently, we are exploring the infectivity and genetic connection between the free-living zooxanthellae and in hospite populations.

 

loros varios parrotfishes-Colombia-SanchezJ