The reproductive ecology of Tubastraea coccinea Lesson, an azooxanthellate tropical scleractinian coral, was studied over various periods from 1985 to 2006 at four principal eastern Pacific locations in Costa Rica, Panamá, and the Galápagos Islands (Ecuador). This small (polyp diameter 0.8-1.0 cm), relatively cryptic species produced ova and planulae year round, including colonies with as few as 2-10 polyps. Of 424 colonies examined histologically, 13.7% contained both ova and sperm. Mature ova varied in diameter from ∼300 to 800 μm and the time from spawning and fertilization of oocytes to release of brooded planulae was about 6 weeks. Planulae were 0.5-1.5 mm long and they settled and metamorphosed on a variety of substrates after 1-3 days. Spermaries, though more difficult to distinguish in histological sections, were present throughout the year. Spent spermaries were never observed in sections, but several colonies in Panamá and the Galápagos Islands released sperm from night one to night five after full moon, indicating the potential for cross-fertilization among colonies. Planula release was observed at Uva Island (Panamá) in March, May, June, and July, and in general planula presence was higher at warm ocean temperatures at all sites, whether or not the sites were influenced by seasonal upwelling. Annual fecundity estimates for T. coccinea are comparable with other high fecundity brooding species, including the zooxanthellate Porites panamensis, with which it co-occurs in Panamá. Tubastraea coccinea is widely distributed in the tropical Indo-Pacific and has colonized substrates in the western Atlantic. In addition to the reproductive characteristics described in the present study, other features of the biology of T. coccinea, such as an ability to withstand conditions that produce bleaching and mortality in zooxanthellate species, may account for its widespread, low-latitude distribution in multiple oceans.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Aquatic Science