As we seek to understand the physiological mechanisms of coral bleaching, it is important to understand the background temporal variation in photosynthetic pigments and photoprotective compounds that corals exhibit. In this study, reef flat populations of two hermatypic coral species, Montipora capitata (Dana, 1846) and Porites compressa Dana, 1846, were sampled monthly in Kāne‘ohe Bay, Hawai‘i, from January 1998 to March 1999. Surface ultraviolet radiation (UVR) was measured continually during this time period at the same location. High-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) analysis of photo-synthetic pigments and mycosporine-like amino acids (MAAs) revealed temporal changes in concentrations and proportions of these compounds in tissues of both species of coral. Chlorophyll a (chl a), chlorophyll c2 (chl c2), peridinin, and diadinoxanthin concentrations changed on a skeletal weight (M. capitata) or surface area (P. compressa) basis, significantly correlating with seasonal changes in solar input (number of days from the winter solstice). In P. compressa, diadinoxanthin increased in proportion to the total pigment pool during summer months, suggesting an up-regulation of a xanthophyll cycle. In M. capitata, the ratio of chl a: chl c2 decreased during winter months, suggesting photoacclimation to lower light levels. It is surprising that there was not a clear seasonal pattern in total MAA concentration for either species, with the exception of shinorine in P. compressa. The relative stability of MAA concentrations over the course of the year despite a pronounced seasonal trend in UVR suggests either that MAAs are not performing a photoprotective role in these species or that concentrations are kept at a threshold level in the presence of a dynamic light environment.
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Vol. 59 • No. 4