A three-stage symbiosis forms the foundation of seagrass ecosystems.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Seagrasses evolved from terrestrial plants into marine foundation species around 100 million years ago. Their ecological success, however, remains a mystery because natural organic matter accumulation within the beds should result in toxic sediment sulfide levels. Using a meta-analysis, a field study, and a laboratory experiment, we reveal how an ancient three-stage symbiosis between seagrass, lucinid bivalves, and their sulfide-oxidizing gill bacteria reduces sulfide stress for seagrasses. We found that the bivalve-sulfide-oxidizer symbiosis reduced sulfide levels and enhanced seagrass production as measured in biomass. In turn, the bivalves and their endosymbionts profit from organic matter accumulation and radial oxygen release from the seagrass roots. These findings elucidate the long-term success of seagrasses in warm waters and offer new prospects for seagrass ecosystem conservation.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • van der Heide, T; Govers, LL; de Fouw, J; Olff, H; van der Geest, M; van Katwijk, MM; Piersma, T; van de Koppel, J; Silliman, BR; Smolders, AJP; van Gils, JA

Published Date

  • June 2012

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 336 / 6087

Start / End Page

  • 1432 - 1434

PubMed ID

  • 22700927

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1095-9203

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0036-8075

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1126/science.1219973


  • eng