Ryan will continue working on his PhD with the Voss Lab next Fall and will be participating on multiple research expeditions this summer.
Coral reefs worldwide are experiencing unprecedented and rapid declines.
However, deeper, mesophotic coral ecosystems (MCEs; 30–150 m) may act as refuges for coral species, providing larvae to recolonize degraded shallow reefs. This study assessed the genetic connectivity of shallow and mesophotic Montastraea cavernosa populations on the Belize Barrier Reef and the community structure of their endosymbiotic algae (Family Symbiodiniaceae) across a fine-scale depth gradient (10, 16, 25, 35 m). Evaluation of nine polymorphic microsatellite markers demonstrated that relatively shallow (10 and 16 m) M. cavernosa populations were genetically distinct from relatively deep (25 and 35 m) populations. High throughput sequencing of ribosomal coding DNA from Symbiodiniaceae communities of M. cavernosa revealed differences in community structure across depth, with shallow-specialist and depth-generalist community profiles. This research provides important information for the management of distinct deep and adds to the body of research on the understudied MCEs of the Mesoamerican Reef.