Sterols, free fatty acids, and total fatty acid content in the massive Porites spp. corals cultured under different pCO2 and temperature treatments

Nora S. H. von Xylander*, Simon Young, Catherine S. Cole, Terry K Smith*, Nicola Allison*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Lipids may serve as energy reserves to support coral calcification, allow acclimation to higher temperatures, and are implicated in the control of CaCO3 precipitation. Here, we report the lipid composition of the soft tissues (including host and symbionts) of 7 massive Porites spp. coral colonies (4 × P. lutea and 3 × P. murrayensis), which were cultured under different pCO2 concentrations (180, 260, 400 and 750 µatm) and at two temperatures (25 ℃ and 28 ℃), below the thermal stress threshold. We report the fatty acid methyl esters (FAME), free fatty acid (FFA) to total fatty acid content, sterol and wax ester profiles, and identify two ketones (n-alkanone) and three long chain aldehyde (n-alkanal) derivatives. Increasing seawater temperature significantly increases the contributions of FFAs to the total lipids, of C18:2 and C20:0 to the total FFA pool, of C14:0 to total FAME, and of campesterol to total sterol. The temperature increase also reduces the contributions of unusual fatty acid derivatives to total lipids, of C14:0, C15:0, C16:0 and C17:0 saturated free fatty acids to total FFAs, and of C16:0 FA to total FAME. Fatty acids are implicated in the control of membrane structure fluidity and the observed changes may promote acclimation and thermostability as temperature varies. Seawater pCO2 has no significant effect on the composition of tissue lipids with the exception that the contribution of C14:0 FA to total lipid content is significantly lower at 180 µatm compared to 260 and 750 µatm. Decreased contribution of total sterols and unusual fatty acid derivatives and increased contribution of total FFAs to total lipids are observed in the fastest calcifying coral (a P. lutea specimen) compared to the other corals, under all pCO2 and temperature conditions. Although a rapid calcifier this genotype has been shown previously to exhibit pronounced abnormal changes in skeletal morphology in response to decreased seawater pCO2. Variations in tissue lipid composition between coral genotypes may influence their resilience to future climate change.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)551-566
Number of pages16
JournalCoral Reefs
Early online date6 Mar 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2023


  • Coral lipids
  • Calcification
  • Seawater temperature
  • pCO2
  • Ocean acidification
  • Biomineralisation


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