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Carbon Flux in the Temperate Zooxanthellate Sea Anemone Anthopleura aureoradiata

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posted on 2021-11-08, 23:18 authored by Gibbons, Christopher Lynton

This study investigated the algal density and growth, photophysiology and contribution of algae to animal respiration requirements (CZAR), in the symbiosis between the sea anemone Anthopleura aureoradiata and its dinoflagellate symbionts (zooxanthellae) under field and laboratory conditions. A. aureoradiata was collected during summer and winter on sunny and cloudy days from a rocky shore and mudflat environment. Algal densities displayed a trend of being 2.6 and 1.7 times greater during summer than winter on the mudflat on a sunny and cloudy day respectively. Algal division was asynchronous under field conditions over a daily period, and was 2.1 and 1.3 times greater on the rocky shore and mudflat respectively, during winter than summer on sunny days. Under field conditions, the efficiency and maximum rate of photosynthesis (per cell and per association) as well as respiration rate, were all greater during summer than winter. Cloud cover resulted in a difference in a higher maximum rate of photosynthesis per cell on a sunny day than a cloudy day within summer at Kau Bay. Additionally, these photosynthetic parameters and respiration rate were all greater on the rocky shore than mudflat while the photosynthetic compensation irradiance was greater on the mudflat. The CZAR was greatest on the rocky shore during summer on a sunny day (151%) and was also > 100% on a cloudy day in summer at this same site (129%); on the mudflat the CZAR was greatest during summer on a sunny day (89%). The CZAR was measured to be zero during winter at both sites during winter on cloudy days. Additionally, under laboratory conditions A. aureoradiata was exposed to gradual (GTC) and rapid (RTC) temperature changes. While under GTC and RTC, the algal density did not vary, though higher temperatures led to an increase in algal division. Under both GTC and RTC, the photosynthetic efficiency, maximum photosynthetic rate (per cell and per association) and respiration rate all increased with temperature, however under GTC these parameters all decreased between 32.5 [degrees]C and 35 [degrees] C. Photosynthetic compensation irradiance increased with temperature under both GTC and RTC until 30 [degrees] C, after which respiration exceeded maximum photosynthesis, meaning that photosynthetic compensation did not occur. Furthermore, photosynthetic saturation irradiance increased with temperature and peaked at 15 [degrees] C before declining with temperature under both GTC and RTC. The CZAR under GTC increased with temperature until it peaked at 15 [degrees] C (128%), before decreasing to zero at 30 [degrees] C - 35 [degrees] C. Under RTC, the CZAR was zero for all temperatures except at 10 [degrees] C where it was 25.1%. A CZAR < 100% may suggest that the symbiosis between A. aureoradiata and its zooxanthellae is parasitic under most conditions and at most times of the year. Alternatively, there may be some benefit to the symbiosis due to a competitive advantage over other macro-invertebrate species as a result of carbon translocation from the symbiont providing extra support for reproduction and growth. This study also showed A. aureoradiata to have a wide temperature tolerance reflecting the fluctuating conditions of a variable temperate environment. The wide temperature tolerance of this species suggests that it will tolerate short term (50 - 100 years) increases in ocean temperatures however, the threat beyond this time frame with other factors such as ocean acidification remains to be determined.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Marine Biology

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Science

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Biological Sciences


Davy, Simon