Global warming has degraded coral reef ecosystems worldwide. Some corals develop thermal tolerance by associating with heat-tolerant Symbiodiniaceae. Here, we studied the mechanisms surrounding the dispersal, genetic variation and symbionts interaction of heat-tolerant Durusdinium trenchii across 13° latitudes in the South China Sea (SCS), to explore the possible mechanisms underlying these changes. Our results showed that Durusdinium trenchii are widely distributed in the seawater from the SCS. Our analyses of microsatellite loci revealed that D. trenchii has a high genetic diversity in the SCS; STRUCTURE analysis indicated that D. trenchii can be divided into four populations within the SCS; There exist positive correlations between genetic variation and geographic isolation, average sea surface temperature (SST) and variations in SST. Network modelling inferences showed that D. trenchii is a key species in the Symbiodiniaceae communities in the tropical SCS and contributes the greatest number of co-exclusion relationships. These results indicated that D. trenchii can affect the rare Symbiodiniaceae community. The long lifespan and the monsoon-driven ocean currents have shaped the wide distribution of D. trenchii. But low SST limits the ability of D. trenchii to establish stable symbioses with coral in the subtropical habitats. Geographical isolation and SST have shaped significant genetic variation of D.trenchii around the SCS. Our data reveals the biogeography and genetic population characteristics of D. trenchii in the Indo-Pacific region, and suggests that heat-tolerance and high genetic diversity of D. trenchii aid the corals with their adaptation to climate change.
Keywords: Climate change; Coral; Dispersal; Durusdinium trenchii; Genetic variation; Symbiont interaction.
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Conflict of interest statement
Declaration of competing interest We declare we have no competing interests.
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