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Reproductive Integration in Reef Corals

Keryea Soong and Judith C. Lang
Biological Bulletin
Vol. 183, No. 3 (Dec., 1992), pp. 418-431
DOI: 10.2307/1542018
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1542018
Page Count: 14
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Reproductive Integration in Reef Corals
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Abstract

The extent of colonial integration in structurally simple animals like scleractinian corals is poorly understood. We have used sexual reproductive characters (location of fertile polyps and colony size at maturation) to assess colony-level individuality, i.e., the development, in coral colonies, of characters above the polyp level. Ten morphologically-diverse species of reef corals were used: Acropora cervicornis, A. palmata, Diploria clivosa, D. strigosa, Favia fragum, Montastrea cavernosa, Porites astreoides, P. furcata, Siderastrea radians, and S. siderea. In no species were equally fertile polyps homogeneously distributed throughout a colony. Most inhomogeneities of fertile polyps could be attributed to intra-colony position or ontogenetic effects. The results of simple manipulations simulating natural wounds in three massive species strengthen the evidence that the position of polyps within a colony determines fertility. Small colonies are not reproductive. Puberty size (colony size at maturation) could be explained by the infertility pattern along the colony margin, which does not require colony-level integration. Shape-related growth constraints could also produce the puberty size patterns found in massive corals. Infertility in the short radial polyps of A. palmata and in the axial polyps of A. cervicornis provided the only clear evidence of reproductive integration in this study: both are related to a morphological characteristic (polyp dimorphism) commonly associated with integration in colonial invertebrates.

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