Nutrient stress arrests tentacle growth in the coral model Aiptasia
The symbiosis between cnidarians and dinoflagellate algae of the family Symbiodiniaceae builds the foundation of coral reef ecosystems. The sea anemone Aiptasia is an emerging model organism promising to advance our functional understanding of this symbiotic association. Here, we report the observation of a novel phenotype of symbiotic Aiptasia likely induced by severe nutrient starvation. Under these conditions, developing Aiptasia no longer grow any tentacles. At the same time, fully developed Aiptasia do not lose their tentacles, yet produce asexual offspring lacking tentacles. This phenotype, termed ‘Wurst’ Aiptasia, can be easily induced and reverted by nutrient starvation and addition, respectively. Thereby, this observation may offer a new experimental framework to study mechanisms underlying phenotypic plasticity as well as nutrient cycling within the Cnidaria – Symbiodiniaceae symbiosis.
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