Symbiodinium is a genus of dinoflagellates that encompasses the largest and most prevalent group of endosymbiotic dinoflagellates known. These unicellular microalgae commonly reside in the endoderm of tropical cnidarians such as corals, sea anemones, and jellyfish, where the products of their photosynthetic processing are exchanged in the host for inorganic molecules. They are also harbored by various species of demosponges, flatworms, mollusks such as the giant clams, foraminifera (soritids), and some ciliates. Generally, these dinoflagellates enter the host cell through phagocytosis, persist as intracellular symbionts, reproduce, and disperse to the environment. The exception is in most mollusks, where these symbionts are intercellular (between the cells). Cnidarians that are associated with Symbiodinium occur mostly in warm oligotrophic (nutrient-poor), marine environments where they are often the dominant constituents of benthic communities. These dinoflagellates are therefore among the most abundant eukaryotic microbes found in coral reef ecosystems.
- This is about the genus sometimes called Zoox. For the company, see Zoox (company)
Symbiodinium are colloquially called zooxanthellae, and animals symbiotic with algae in this genus are said to be "zooxanthellate". The term was loosely used to refer to any golden-brown endosymbionts, including diatoms and other dinoflagellates. Continued use of the term in the scientific literature is discouraged because of the confusion caused by overly generalizing taxonomically diverse symbiotic relationships.
In 2018, the systematics of Symbiodiniaceae was revised, and the distinct clades have been reassigned into seven genera. Following this revision, the name Symbiodinium is now sensu stricto a genus name for only species that were previously classified as Clade A. The other clades were reclassified as distinct genera (see Molecular Systematics below).