Rädecker, Nils

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High light quantity suppresses locomotion in symbiotic Aiptasia

2022-05-27, Strumpen, Nils F., Rädecker, Nils, Pogoreutz, Claudia, Meibom, Anders, Voolstra, Christian R.

Many cnidarians engage in endosymbioses with microalgae of the family Symbiodiniaceae. In this association, the fitness of the cnidarian host is closely linked to the photosynthetic performance of its microalgal symbionts. Phototaxis may enable semi-sessile cnidarians to optimize the light regime for their microalgal symbionts. Indeed, phototaxis and phototropism have been reported in the photosymbiotic sea anemone Aiptasia. However, the influence of light quantity on the locomotive behavior of Aiptasia remains unknown. Here we show that light quantity and the presence of microalgal symbionts modulate the phototactic behavior in Aiptasia. Although photosymbiotic Aiptasia were observed to move in seemingly random directions along an experimental light gradient, their probability of locomotion depended on light quantity. As photosymbiotic animals were highly mobile in low light but almost immobile at high light quantities, photosymbiotic Aiptasia at low light quantities exhibited an effective net movement towards light levels sufficient for positive net photosynthesis. In contrast, aposymbiotic Aiptasia exhibited greater mobility than their photosymbiotic counterparts, regardless of light quantity. Our results suggest that photosynthetic activity of the microalgal symbionts suppresses locomotion in Aiptasia, likely by supporting a positive energy balance in the host. We propose that motile photosymbiotic organisms can develop phototactic behavior as a consequence of starvation linked to symbiotic nutrient cycling.