Symbiosis between the dinoflagellate genus Symbiodinium and various invertebrates and protists is an ubiquitous phenomenon in shallow tropical and subtropical waters. Molecular studies undertaken on cnidarian symbionts revealed the presence of several distinctive lineages or subgeneric clades of Symbiodinium whose taxonomic level provides limited information about the specificity between invertebrate hosts and their symbionts. This contrasts with the finding of several Symbiodinium clades being present almost exclusively in foraminifera and belonging to the subfamily Soritinae. To test whether such specificity also exists at a lower taxonomic level within Soritinae, we obtained the SSU rDNA sequences from 159 soritid individuals collected in nine localities worldwide and representing all known morphospecies of this subfamily. For each individual, the symbionts were determined either by sequencing or by RFLP analysis. We distinguished 22 phylotypes of Soritinae in relation with a number of symbiont "groups" corresponding to 3 clades and 5 subclades of Symbiodinium. Among the 22 soritid phylotypes, 14 show strict symbiont specificity and only one was found to be a host for more than two "groups" of Symbiodinium. It is suggested that the strong host-symbiont specificity observed in Soritinae is a combined effect of a selective recognition mechanism, vertical transmission of symbionts, and biogeographical isolation.
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