Symbiotic zooxanthellae provide the host-coral Montipora digitata with polyunsaturated fatty acids

Comp Biochem Physiol B Biochem Mol Biol. 2003 Jul;135(3):533-7. doi: 10.1016/s1096-4959(03)00118-0.


We compared the fatty acid composition of the host-coral Montipora digitata with the fatty acid composition in the coral's endosymbiotic dinoflagellates (zooxanthellae). Fatty acids as methyl esters were determined using gas chromatography (GC) and verified by GC-mass spectrometry. We found the main difference between the fatty acids in the host and their symbionts were that zooxanthellae supported higher proportions of polyunsaturated fatty acids. The presence of fatty acids specific to dinoflagellates (i.e. 18:4omega3, 22:5omega3 and 22:6omega3) in the host tissue suggests that zooxanthellae provide the coral host not only with saturated fatty acids, but also with diverse polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anthozoa / metabolism*
  • Anthozoa / microbiology
  • Body Composition
  • Diet
  • Dinoflagellida / metabolism*
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated / metabolism*
  • Symbiosis*


  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated