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Building Consensus Around the Assessment and Interpretation of Symbiodiniaceae Diversity

Tamar Goulet

Dr. Tammy Goulet researches symbiosis and host-symbiont genotypic combinations, marine ecology, coral reefs, and coral-algal physiology.

Dr. Tammy Goulet coauthored the manuscript that will be published in the peer-reviewed journal PeerJ.  Below is the abstract and the international team of co-authors.



Within microeukaryotes, genetic variation and functional variation sometimes accumulate more quickly than morphological differences. To understand the evolutionary history and ecology of such lineages, it is key to examine diversity at multiple levels of organization. In the dinoflagellate family Symbiodiniaceae, which can form endosymbioses with cnidarians (e.g., corals, octocorals, sea anemones, jellyfish), other marine invertebrates (e.g., sponges, molluscs, flatworms), and protists (e.g., foraminifera), molecular data have been used extensively over the past three decades to describe phenotypes and to make evolutionary and ecological inferences. Despite advances in Symbiodiniaceae genomics, a lack of consensus among researchers with respect to interpreting genetic data has slowed progress in the field and acted as a barrier to reconciling observations. Here, we identify key challenges regarding the assessment and interpretation of Symbiodiniaceae genetic diversity across three levels: species, populations, and communities. We summarize areas of agreement and highlight techniques and approaches that are broadly accepted. In areas where debate remains, we identify unresolved issues and discuss technologies and approaches that can help to fill knowledge gaps related to genetic and phenotypic diversity. We also discuss ways to stimulate progress, in particular by fostering a more inclusive and collaborative research community. We hope that this perspective will inspire and accelerate coral reef science by serving as a resource to those designing experiments, publishing research, and applying for funding related to Symbiodiniaceae and their symbiotic partnerships.


Davies SW1*,  Gamache MH2, Howe-Kerr LI3, Kriefall NG1, Baker AC4, Banaszak AT5, Bay LK6, Bellantuono AJ7, Bhattacharya D8, Chan CX9, Claar DC10, Coffroth MA11, Cunning R12, Davy SK13, del Campo J14, Díaz-Almeyda EM15, Frommlet JC16, Fuess LE17, González-Pech RA18, Goulet TL19, Hoadley KD20, Howells EJ21, Hume BCC22, Kemp DW23, Kenkel CD24, Kitchen SA25, LaJeunesse TC18, Lin S26, McIlroy SE27, McMinds R28, Nitschke MR6, Oakley CA13, Peixoto RS29, Prada C30, Putnam HM30, Quigley KM31, Reich HG30, Reimer JD32, Rodriguez-Lanetty M7, Rosales SM33, Saad OS34, Sampayo EM35, Santos SR36, Shoguchi E37, Smith EG38, Stat M39, Stephens TG8, Strader ME40, Suggett DJ41, Swain TD42, Tran C43, Traylor-Knowles N4, Voolstra CR22, Warner ME44, Weis VM45, Wright RM46, Xiang T38, Yamashita H47, Ziegler M48, Correa AMS3* and Parkinson JE2*

Corresponding authors(*)



1Department of Biology, Boston University, Boston, MA, USA

2Department of Integrative Biology, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL, USA

3Department of BioSciences, Rice University, Houston, TX, USA

4Department of Marine Biology and Ecology, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami, Miami, FL, USA

5Unidad A Académica de Sistemas Arrecifales, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico, Puerto Morelos, Mexico

6Reef Recovery, Adaptation, and Restoration, Australian Institute of Marine Science, Townsville, QLD, Australia

7Department of Biological Sciences, Florida International University, Miami, FL, USA

8Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, USA

9Australian Centre for Ecogenomics, School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia

10Hakai Institute, Campbell River, Canada

11Department of Geology, University at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY, USA

12Daniel P. Haerther Center for Conservation and Research, John G. Shedd Aquarium, Chicago, IL, USA

13School of Biological Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand

14Biodiversity Program, Institut de Biologia Evolutiva, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Spain

15Department of Natural Sciences, New College of Florida, Sarasota, FL, USA

16Centre for Environmental and Marine Studies, Department of Biology, University of Aveiro, Aveiro, Portugal

17Department of Biology, Texas State University, San Marcos, TX, USA

18Department of Biology, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, USA

19Department of Biology, University of Mississippi, Oxford, MS, USA

20Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL, USA

21National Marine Science Centre, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Southern Cross University, Coffs Harbour, NSW, Australia

22Department of Biology, University of Konstanz, Konstanz, Germany

23Department of Biology, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL, USA

24Department of Biological Sciences, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA

25Divsion of Biology and Biological Engineering, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, USA

26Department of Marine Sciences, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT, USA

27Swire Institute of Marine Science, School of Biological Sciences, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

28Center for Global Health and Infectious Disease Research, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL, USA

29Red Sea Research Center, Division of Biological and Environmental Science and Engineering, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Thuwal, Saudi Arabia

30Department of Biological Sciences, University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI, USA

31Minderoo Foundation, Perth, WA, Australia

32MISE, Department of Biology, Chemistry and Marine Sciences, Faculty of Science, University of the Ryukyus, Nishihara, Okinawa, Japan

33The Cooperative Institute For Marine And Atmospheric Studies, University of Miami, Miami, FL, USA

34Department of Biological Oceanography, Red Sea University, Port-Sudan, Sudan

35School of Biological Sciences, The University of Queensland, St. Lucia, QLD, Australia

36Department of Biological Sciences, University at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY, USA

37Marine Genomics Unit, Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University, Okinawa, Japan

38Department of Biological Sciences, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Charlotte, NC, USA

39School of Environmental and Life Sciences, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW, Australia

40Department of Biology, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, USA

41Climate Change Cluster, University of Technology Sydney, Ultimo, NSW, Australia

42Department of Marine and Environmental Science, Nova Southeastern University, Dania Beach, FL, USA

43Department of Biology, University of San Diego, San Diego, CA, USA

44School of Marine Science and Policy, University of Delaware, Lewes, DE, USA

45Department of Integrative Biology, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, USA

46Department of Biological Sciences, Smith College, Northampton, MA, USA

47Fisheries Technology Institute, Japan Fisheries Research and Education Agency, Ishigaki, Okinawa, Japan

48Department of Animal Ecology & Systematics, Justus Liebig University Giessen, Giessen, Germany