Effects of feeding frequency and symbiosis with zooxanthellae on nitrogen metabolism and respiration of the coral Astrangia danae

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Colonies of the temperate coral Astrangia danae occur naturally with and without zooxanthellae. Basal nitrogen excretion rates of nonsymbiotic colonies increased with increasing feeding frequency [average excretion rate was 635 ng-at N (mg-at tissue-N)-1 h-1]. Reduced excretion rates of symbiotic colonies were attributed to N uptake by the zooxanthellae. Nitrogen uptake rates of the zooxanthellae averaged 8 ng-at N (106 cells)-1 h-1 in the dark and 21 ng-at N (106 cells)-1 h-1 at 200 μEin m-2 s-1. At these rates the zooxanthellae could provide 54% of the daily basal N requirement of the coral if all of the recycled N was translocated. Basal respiration rates were 172 nmol O2 cm-2 h-1 for starved colonies and 447 nmol O2 cm-2 h-1 for colonies fed three times per week. There were no significant differences between respiration rates of symbiotic and nonsymbiotic colonies. N excretion and respiration rates of fed (symbiotic and nonsymbiotic) colonies increased greatly soon after feeding. N absorption efficiencies decreased with increasing feeding frequency. A N mass balance, constructed for hypothetical situations of nonsymbiotic and symbiotic (3×106 zooxanthellae cm-2) colonies, starved and fed 15 μg-at N cm-2wk-1, showed that the presence of symbionts could double the N growth rate of feeding colonies, and reduce the turnover-time of starved ones, but could not provide all of the N requirements of starved colonies. Rates of secondary production, estimated from rates of photosynthesis and respiration were similar to those estimated for reef corals. © 1984 Springer-Verlag.

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Marine Biology