Obligate symbiotic dinoflagellates (Symbiodinium) residing within the tissues of most reef invertebrates are important in determining the tolerance range of their host. Coral communities living at high latitudes experience wide fluctuations in environmental conditions and thus provide an ideal system to gain insights into the range within which the symbiotic relationship can be sustained. Further, understanding whether and how symbiont communities associated with high-latitude coral reefs are different from their tropical counterparts will provide clues to the potential of corals to cope with marginal or changing conditions. However, little is known of the host and symbiont partnerships at high latitudes. Symbiodinium diversity and specificity of high-latitude coral communities were explored using denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (PCR-DGGE) analysis of the internal transcribed spacer regions (ITS1 and ITS2) of the ribosomal DNA at Lord Howe Island (31°S; Australia), and the Kermadec Islands (29°S; New Zealand). All but one host associated with clade C Symbiodinium, the exception being a soft coral (Capnella sp.) that contained Symbiodinium B1. Besides 'host-generalist' Symbiodinium types C1 and C3, approximately 72% of the Symbiodinium identified were novel C types, and zonation of symbionts in relation to environmental parameters such as depth and turbidity was evident in certain host species. The high-latitude Symbiodinium communities showed little overlap and relatively high diversity compared with communities sampled on the tropical Great Barrier Reef. Although host specificity was maintained in certain species, others shared symbionts and this potential reduction of fidelity at high-latitude locations may be the result of locally challenging and highly variable environmental conditions. © 2010 Springer-Verlag.
- Lord Howe Island