Coral reefs are some of the most diverse and productive ecosystems on the planet, but are threatened by global and local stressors, mandating the need for incorporating ex situ conservation practices. One approach that is highly protective is the development of genome resource banks that preserve the species and its genetic diversity. A critical component of the reef are the endosymbiotic algae, Symbiodinium sp., living within most coral that transfer energy-rich sugars to their hosts. Although Symbiodinium are maintained alive in culture collections around the world, the cryopreservation of these algae to prevent loss and genetic drift is not well-defined. This study examined the quantum yield physiology and freezing protocols that resulted in survival of Symbiodinium at 24 h post-thawing. Only the ultra-rapid procedure called vitrification resulted in success whereas conventional slow freezing protocols did not. We determined that success also depended on using a thin film of agar with embedded Symbiodinium on Cryotops, a process that yielded a post-thaw viability of >50% in extracted and vitrified Symbiodinium from Fungia scutaria, Pocillopora damicornis and Porites compressa. Additionally, there also was a seasonal influence on vitrification success as the best post-thaw survival of F. scutaria occurred in winter and spring compared to summer and fall (P < 0.05). These findings lay the foundation for developing a viable genome resource bank for the world's Symbiodinium that, in turn, will not only protect this critical element of coral functionality but serve as a resource for understanding the complexities of symbiosis, support selective breeding experiments to develop more thermally resilient strains of coral, and provide a 'gold-standard' genomics collection, allowing for full genomic sequencing of unique Symbiodinium strains.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)