Interspecific associations are common in coral reefs, but those involving hydrozoans and octocorals have not been widely investigated. The hydroid Pteroclava krempfi (Hydrozoa, Cladocorynidae) lives in association with different soft coral taxa (Alcyonacea), showing a widespread distribution. However, very little information is available on the ecology of these relationships. Here, we tested for differences in the taxon-specific prevalence and habitat preference of the symbiosis and determined ecological traits of the P. krempfi-host associations in central Red Sea reefs. P. krempfi was found associated with the alcyonacean genera Lobophytum, Rhytisma, Sarcophyton and Sinularia, updating its host range and geographic distribution. The symbiosis prevalence was high in the area and especially at inshore sites compared to midshore and offshore sites. Rhytisma was the most common host, while the association with Lobophytum showed the lowest taxon-specific prevalence. P. krempfi did not show a clear preference for a specific alcyonacean size, and an increase in host size automatically led to an increase in the surface occupied by hydrozoans, although they rarely colonized more than 50% of the upper surface of the host. The spatial distribution of the hydroids on the host surface appeared related to the host genus and size as well as to the coverage of the hydroids. Despite the nature of this symbiosis requiring further investigation, P. krempfi did not seem to play a role in affecting the bleaching susceptibilities of the host colonies. The study shows that the Red Sea coral reef symbioses are more widespread than previously known and therefore deserve more attention.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Aquatic Science