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Previous projects

Over the years some projects have come and gone along with funding and collaborators.  Here we showcase some of the more important ones that we have worked on.

Symbiodinium - the hero of coral reefs


Symbiodinium cells isolated from corals. Reproduced from

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One Tree Island research station, owned by Sydney University and located in the southern Barrier Reef.  Reproduced from

Chromera velia - a remarkably   

interesting small green-brown alga

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Chromera velia cells, also isolated from corals. 

The ecology and diversity of Symbiodinium 

Our work on Symbiodinium (commonly known as "zooxanthellae" began as a collaboration with Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, an eminent coral reef biologist who was then at the University of Sydney. Symbiodinium are coral symbionts and are vital to reef survival - it is their expulsion that results in coral bleaching. We used molecular genetic techniques to understand Symbiodinium diversity and how this might change in the face of climate change. The following papers report some of our key findings in this area:

Stat, M., Loh, W.K.W., LaJeunesse, T.C., Hoegh-Guldberg, O., and. Carter D.A. (2009) Stability of coral-endosymbiont associations during and after a thermal stress event in the southern Great Barrier Reef.  Coral Reefs  DOI 10.1007/s00338-009-0509-5. 

Stat, M., Loh W. K. W., Hoegh-Guldberg O., Carter D. A. (2008) Symbiont acquisition strategy drives host-symbiont associations in the southern Great Barrier Reef.   Coral Reefs 27: 763–772.


Stat, M., Carter, D.A. and Hoegh-Guldberg, O. (2006)  The evolutionary history of Symbiodinium and scleractinian hosts; symbiosis, diversity and the effect of climate change. Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics 8:23–43.


Moore, R.B., Ferguson, K.M., Loh, W.K.W., Hoegh-Guldberg, O. and Carter, D.A. (2003)  Highly organised structure in the non-coding region of the psbA minicircle from clade C Symbiodinium. International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology 53: 1725–1734.


Takabayashi, M., Carter, D.A., Lopez, J.V. and Hoegh-Guldberg, O. (2003) Genetic variation of the scleractinian coral Stylophora pistillata, from western Pacific reefs. Coral Reefs 22: 17–22.

Loh, W., Loi, T., Carter, D.A. and Hoegh-Guldberg, O.  Genetic variability of the symbiotic dinoflagellates from the wide ranging coral species, Seriatopora hystrix and Acropora longicyathus, in the Indo-West Pacific. (2001) Marine Ecology Progress Series 222: 51–62.

Rodriguez-Lanetty, M., Loh, W., Carter, D. and Hoegh-Guldberg, O. (2001)  Latitudinal variability in symbiont specificity within the widespread scleractinian coral Plesiastrea versipora. Marine Biology 138: 1175–1181.

Takabayashi, M., Carter, D.A., Loh, W. and Hoegh-Guldberg, O. (1998) A coral-specific primer for PCR amplification of the internal transcribed spacer region of ribosomal DNA.  Molecular Ecology 7: 928–929.

Chromera velia - the link between algae and apicomplexan parasites

Bob Moore isolated Chromera velia from coral samples when he was looking for Symbiodinium, then went on to characterise it phylogenetically and  morphologically. It turned out that Chromera held the secret to an ancient link between dinoflagellate algae - including Symbiodinium - and apicomplexan parasites such as Plasmodium, the agent of malaria. This link had been speculated as apicomplexans harbour a relict chloroplast known as the apicoplast. Chromera proved definitively that the apicoplast was derived from red algae, not green algae as had been argued.  Hundreds of papers have since been written on Chromera, and it  has just been named Alga of the Year by German Society for Plant Sciences. These papers are from our lab and collaborators:

Van Voorhis, W.C. and 191 co-authors listed alphabetically. (2016) Open-source drug discovery with the Malaria Box compound collection for neglected diseases and beyond. PLOS Medicine 12(7) e1005763


Weatherby, K & Carter, D.  (2013) Chromera velia: The Missing Link in the Evolution of Parasitism.  Advances in Applied Microbiology 85:119–144.


Pan, H., Slapeta, J., Carter, D. and Chen, M.  Phylogenetic analysis of the light-harvesting system in Chromera velia. (2012) Photosynthesis Research 111: 19–28.


Guo, J.T., Weatherby, K., Carter, D. and Slapeta, J. (2010)  Effect of nutrient concentration and salinity on immotile–motile transformation of Chromera velia. Journal of Eukaryotic Microbiology 57:444–446.

Weatherby, K., Murray, S., Carter, D and Slapeta, J. (2011)  Surface and flagella morphology of the motile form of Chromera velia revealed by field-emission scanning electron microscopy. Protist 162: 142–153.

Moore, R.B. Oborník, M., Janouskovec, J., Chrudimsky, T., Vancová, M., Green, D.H., Wright, S.W., Davies, N.W., Bolch, C.J.S., Heimann, K., Slapeta, J., Hoegh-Guldberg, O., Logsdon, J.M. and Carter, D.A. (2008) A photosynthetic alveolate closely related to apicomplexan parasites. Nature  451:959–963.  DOI

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