Why study Anthopleura elegantissima?
One of the most famous examples of endosymbiotic relationships is that between tropical reef-building corals and the
symbiotic algae that live in their gastrodermal cells. Nutrients provided by the host allow the intracellular algae
to thrive (Fitt, 2000). In return, the algae deliver photosynthetic products that feed the host (McCloskey et al., 1996).
This association is considered mutualistic with the algae contributing to the growth of the coral and the coral providing
shelter and nutrients to the single-celled alga (Muller-Parker and D’Elia, 1997).
This mutualistic association also occurs in temperate cnidarians. Anthopleura elegantissima, the most abundant intertidal
anemone along the west coast of North America can host different symbionts in its gastrodermal cells (Hand, 1955).
In Washington, Oregon and California, the most common symbiont is the dinoflagellate Symbiodinium muscatinei
(LaJeunesee and Trench, 2000). Though intrinsically mutualistic, the relationship between A. elegantissima and
S. muscatinei can become parasitic if symbiont density exceeds the anemone’s hosting capacity (Muller-Parker and D’Elia, 1997).
Western Washington University