Within-Colony Variations of UV Absorption in a Reef Building Coral
Concentration and composition of ultraviolet (UV) absorbing substances have been found to vary in corals found at different depths, between color morphs of conspecifics and between coral species. In this study, spatial distribution patterns of UV-absorbing compounds were found to differ within individual colonies of the reef building coral Montastraea annularis. Extracts from coral cores were analyzed spectrophotometricaly to determine total concentration of UV-absorbing compounds and HPLC analyses were performed to identify specific mycosporine-like-amino-acids (MAAs) and their concentrations. The greatest UV absorbance was measured on the top of the colony with intermediate values on the vertical sides and lowest absorbance near the base. Variations in UV absorbance corresponded to the expected incident UV radiation regime along the surface of the coral with a five-fold increase in UV absorption on the top when compared with the base of the coral. HPLC analysis of M. annularis extracts demonstrated that the increase in UV absorption on the top of the colony was largely due to a higher concentration of the two dominant compounds, mycosporine-glycine and palythine. This study demonstrates that individual coral colonies exhibit considerable plasticity in their capacity to absorb UV radiation, emphasizing that sampling location within a colony must be a primary consideration when making comparisons of UV-absorbing capabilities between colonies, between species or along depth gradients.
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Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: 01 November 1998
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