Aiptasia is a genus of a symbiotic cnidarian belonging to the class Anthozoa. Aiptasia is a widely distributed genus of temperate and tropical sea anemones of benthic lifestyle typically found living on mangrove roots and hard substrates. These anemones, as well as many other cnidarian species, often contain symbiotic dinoflagellate unicellular algae of the genus Symbiodinium living inside nutritive cells. The symbionts provide food mainly in the form of lipids and sugars produced from photosynthesis to the host while the hosts provides inorganic nutrients and a constant and protective environment to the algae. Species of Aiptasia are relatively weedy anemones able to withstand a relatively wide range of salinities and other water quality conditions. In the case of A. pallida and A. pulchella, their hardiness coupled with their ability to reproduce very quickly and out-compete other species in culture gives these anemones the status of pest from the perspective of coral reef aquarium hobbyists. These very characteristics make them easy to grow in the laboratory and thus they are extensively used as model systems for scientific study. In this respect, Aiptasia have contributed a significant amount of knowledge regarding cnidarian biology, especially our understanding of cnidarian-algal symbioses, a biological phenomenon crucial to the survival of corals and coral reef ecosystems. The dependence of coral reefs on the health of the symbiosis is dramatically illustrated by the devastating effects experienced by corals due to the loss of algal symbionts in response to environmental stress, a phenomenon known as coral bleaching.
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