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Keywords:

  • phylogeny;
  • small subunit rRNA genes;
  • Symbiodinium;
  • symbiosis;
  • symbiotic dinoflagellates;
  • zooxanthellae

The genus Symbiodinium is the commonly observed symbiotic dinoflagellate (zooxanthellae) that forms mutual associations with various marine invertebrates. Numerous studies have revealed that the genus is comprised of a group of diverse taxa, and information on the phylogenetic relationships among the genus’ members is increasing. In this study, small subunit (SSU) ribosomal RNA (ssrRNA) gene sequences were determined for 15 more Symbiodinium strains from 12 relatively unstudied host taxa (Indo-Pacific tridacnids, cardiids, sponge, and soft coral), 1 hitherto unreported free-living Symbiodinium strain, and 4 other Symbiodinium strains from four other host taxa (Indo-Pacific zoanthid, foraminifer, jellyfish, and mid-Pacific hard coral). Their respective phylogenetic positions were inferred, and strains that are either closely related to or distinct from previously reported Symbiodinium taxa were revealed. The cultured Symbiodinium strains isolated from individuals of six species of tridacnids and three species of cardiids all had identical ssrRNA gene sequences, are closely related to S. microadriaticum Freudenthal, and are indistinguishable from the RFLP Type A strain previously reported. However, the ssrRNA gene sequences of clam symbionts that were obtained via gene cloning were different from those of the cultured isolates and represent strains that are close to the RFLP Type C strains. The Symbiodinium-like dinoflagellate from the Indo-Pacific sponge Haliclona koremella De Laubenfels is distinct from any of the Symbiodinium taxa studied and may be similar to the symbiont previously isolated from the stony coral Montipora patula Quelch. The isolates from the soft coral Sarcophyton glaucum Quoy et Gaimard and from the zoanthid Zoanthus sp. are both very closely related to S. pilosum Trench et Blank. The free-living Symbiodinium isolate is very closely related to the symbiont isolated from the Indo-Pacific foraminifer Amphisorus hemprichii Ehrenberg, which in turn is distinct from the Red Sea strain isolated from a similar host. Theisolate from Cassiopeia sp. is different from S. microadriaticum F., the type species harbored by Cassiopeia xamachana Bigelow, and is instead very closely related to S. pulchrorum Trench isolated from a sea anemone. The symbiont from the stony coral M. verrucosa Lamarck is a sister taxon to the symbionts isolated from the foraminifera Marginopora kudakajimensis Gudmundsson and Sorites orbiculus Forskål. These data suggest that polymorphic symbioses extend from cnidarians to some bivalve, foraminifer, and jellyfish host species.