Initiation of symbiosis between the soft coral Heteroxenia fuscescens and its zooxanthellae

Zohar Pasternak*, Ami Bachr, Avigdor Abelson, Yair Achituv

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Symbiotic dinoflagellates of the genus Symbiodinium, commonly referred to as zooxanthellae, inhabit a large portion of the world's corals and are essential for the existence and well being of tropical reef ecosystems. The initiation of this symbiosis was studied using the Red-Sea soft coral Heteroxenia fuscescens. Results show that the motile algal cells are attracted to chemical substances emanating from the mouths of juvenile (zooxanthellae-free) polyps but not of adult (zooxanthellae-bearing) ones. The oral acquisition of symbionts is immediate; within 15 min of encountering the polyp, 15.6 ± 5.2 cells gain access into it. Once initial acquisition is concluded, the net number of algae within the polyp does not change significantly over the next 3 h, while algae continue to penetrate through and be expelled from the polyp mouth.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-116
Number of pages4
JournalMarine Ecology - Progress Series
StatePublished - 28 Sep 2004


  • Algal acquisition
  • Chemotaxis
  • Coral reef
  • Symbiosis
  • Zooxanthellae


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