We examined the ultraviolet (UV) absorption spectra (280–400 nm) of coral tissue extracts and the concentration and composition of mycosporine-like amino acids (MAA) in three common Caribbean reef-building corals using UV spectroscopy and high-pressure liquid chromatography. Two
of the species examined Porites astreoides (green morphotype) and Acropora cervicornis are widely distributed ranging from <1.0 to over 25 m depth, while the third, Mycetophyllia ferox, is a plating species usually confined to the deeper parts of the reef. UV absorption
spectra (280–400 nm) of coral tissue extracts in seawater exhibited absorption maxima between 320 and 340 nm and protein-specific absorption in general decreased with depth. A. cervicornis and P. astreoides exhibited hypsochromic displacement in their UV-absorption spectra
relative to M. ferox, denoting greater capacity per mole unit MAA for absorption of the shorter, more energetic, and thus more harmful radiation. MAA content of M. ferox was the lowest of the three species examined, approximately one tenth that of P. astreoides across
the depth range examined. In all three species, mycosporine–glycine showed the least variation with depth while content of other MAAs varied substantially.
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