Reproductive ecology of two major reef-building corals in the eastern Pacific [Pocillopora damicornis (Linnaeus) and Pocillopora elegans Dana] was investigated between 1984 and 1990 in Costa Rica, Panama (Gulf of Chiriqui and Gulf of Panama), and the Galapagos Islands (Ecuador) following the 1982-83 El Niño disturbance. Mature spermatocytes and oocytes were found in both species and were usually present in the same polyp in nearly equal ratios. Numerous zooxanthellae were observed in mature, unfertilized oocytes. Although spawning in field populations was not observed, it is likely that both pocilloporids are simultaneous hermaphroditic spawners, as evidenced by the disappearance of mature gametes after full moon. This is in contrast with most known pocilloporid corals that brood and release planula larvae. Corals were reproductively most active in the thermally stable environments of Costa Rica and the Gulf of Chiriqui (Panama) where 32 to 90% of all colonies contained gametes. In the moderately varying thermal conditions in the Galapagos Islands, 16 to 40% of colonies contained gametes, and in the pronounced seasonal upwelling environment of the Pearl Islands (Panama) only 6 to 18% of colonies contained gametes. Year-round reproduction occurred in Costa Rica and the Gulf of Chiriqui, whereas reproduction was confined to warm periods in the seasonally varying environments of the Galapagos Islands and the Gulf of Panama. Pocilloporid corals in Costa Rica and the Gulf of Chiriqui demonstrated lunar spawning activity, with mature gametes present a few days before and after full moon. Some limited spawning may have occurred also at new moon. While frequent gamete maturation has been demonstrated in this study, the relatively low rates of larval recruitment occurring on eastern Pacific coral reefs disturbed by the 1982-83 El Niño suggest that the recovery of important frame-building corals could be greatly prolonged.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Aquatic Science