Benthic foraminiferal taxa that host algal endosymbionts can serve as model organisms in understanding photo-oxidative stress in environments where algal symbioses are prevalent. This study examined photochemical performance of the diatom symbionts within the foraminifer Amphistegina gibbosa. Data on bleaching prevalence and photochemical efficiency for photosystem II (PSII) were obtained from specimens collected at Tennessee Reef, Florida reef tract, USA, as close as logistically feasible to each equinox and solstice in 2012 and 2013. Specimens were collected at 6 m and 18 m depths, isolated, visually characterized, and assessed for maximum quantum yield of PSII using a pulse-amplitude modulated (PAM) fluorometer. Rapid-light curves (RLCs) were performed in the laboratory on specimens within a few hours of collection. Trials examined the effects of depth, sampling date, and degree of host bleaching. Consistent with field studies in the 1990s, proportions of A. gibbosa populations exhibiting visible loss of symbionts (i.e., “bleaching”) were lowest in December, with between-season and between-year differences in maxima. Maximum quantum yields ranged from 0.66–0.76. Significant differences between sampling dates were found at the 6 m site, with highest yields in winter and lowest in summer. At the 18 m site, maximum quantum yields differed both by sampling date and by degree of bleaching. Rapid light curves revealed that relative electron transport rates were highest in specimens exhibiting no visible symbiont loss; derived-photosynthetic parameters of α (initial slope of the RLC) and Ek (minimum saturating irradiance) did not differ significantly across different degrees of symbiont loss. Overall results indicate that even individuals exhibiting substantial symbiont loss retain some fully functional symbionts.

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