Isolated and combined effects of thermal stress and copper exposure on the trophic behavior and oxidative status of the reef-building coral Mussismilia harttii
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Global warming and local disturbances such as pollution cause several impacts on coral reefs. Among them is the breakdown of the symbiosis between host corals and photosynthetic symbionts, which is often a consequence of oxidative stress. Therefore, we investigated if the combined effects of thermal stress and copper (Cu) exposure change the trophic behavior and oxidative status of the reef-building coral Mussismilia harttii. Coral fragments were exposed in a mesocosm system to three temperatures (25.0, 26.6 and 27.3 °C) and three Cu concentrations (2.9, 5.4 and 8.6 μg L-1). Samples were collected after 4 and 12 days of exposure. We then (i) performed fatty acid analysis by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry to quantify changes in stearidonic acid and docosapentaenoic acid (autotrophy markers) and cis-gondoic acid (heterotrophy marker), and (ii) assessed the oxidative status of both host and symbiont through analyses of lipid peroxidation (LPO) and total antioxidant capacity (TAC). Our findings show that trophic behavior was predominantly autotrophic and remained unchanged under individual and combined stressors for both 4- and 12-day experiments; for the latter, however, there was an increase in the heterotrophy marker. Results also show that 4 days was not enough to trigger changes in LPO or TAC for both coral and symbiont. However, the 12-day experiment showed a reduction in symbiont LPO associated with thermal stress alone, and the combination of stressors increased their TAC. For the coral, the isolated effects of increase in Cu and temperature led to an increase in LPO. The effects of combined stressors on trophic behavior and oxidative status were not much different than those from the isolated effects of each stressor. These findings highlight that host and symbionts respond differently to stress and are relevant as they show the physiological response of individual holobiont compartments to both global and local stressors.
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