Inter-specific coral chimerism: Genetically distinct multicellular structures associated with tissue loss in Montipora capitata

PLoS ONE
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Abstract

Montipora white syndrome (MWS) results in tissue-loss that is often lethal to Montipora capitata, a major reef building coral that is abundant and dominant in the Hawai'ian Archipelago. Within some MWS-affected colonies in Kane'ohe Bay, Oahu, Hawai'i, we saw unusual motile multicellular structures within gastrovascular canals (hereafter referred to as invasive gastrovascular multicellular structure-IGMS) that were associated with thinning and fragmentation of the basal body wall. IGMS were in significantly greater densities in coral fragments manifesting tissue-loss compared to paired normal fragments. Mesenterial filaments from these colonies yielded typical M. capitata mitochondrial haplotypes (CO1, CR), while IGMS from the same colony consistently yielded distinct haplotypes previously only found in a different Montipora species (Montipora flabellata). Protein profiles showed consistent differences between paired mesenterial filaments and IGMS from the same colonies as did seven microsatellite loci that also exhibited an excess of alleles per locus inconsistent with a single diploid organism. We hypothesize that IGMS are a parasitic cellular lineage resulting from the chimeric fusion between M. capitata and M. flabellata larvae followed by morphological reabsorption of M. flabellata and subsequent formation of cell-lineage parasites. We term this disease Montiporaiasis. Although intra-specific chimerism is common in colonial animals, this is the first suspected inter-specific example and the first associated with tissue loss.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Inter-specific coral chimerism: Genetically distinct multicellular structures associated with tissue loss in Montipora capitata
Series title PLoS ONE
DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0022869
Volume 6
Issue 7
Year Published 2011
Language English
Publisher Public Library of Science
Contributing office(s) National Wildlife Health Center
Description e22869; 8 p.
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N