, Volume 11, Issue 4, pp 215-219

Recruitment patterns of scleractinian corals in an isolated sub-tropical reef system

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The density of recruits of scleractinian corals on settlement plates at Lord Howe Island, a small isolated sub-tropical island 630 km off the Australian coastline, was within the range of values reported for comparable studies on the Great Barrier Reef. However, there was a difference in the relative abundance of taxonomic groups, with recruitment at Lord Howe Island during the summer of 1990/91 dominated by corals from the Family Pocilloporidae, Family Poritidae, and sub-genus Acropora (Isopora) (in order of abundance). By contrast, on the Great Barrier Reef, recruits are generally predominantly species from the Family Acroporidae (other than the Acropora (Isopora) group). Both the recruits and the established coral communities at Lord Howe Island are dominanted by corals which release brooded planulae, as opposed to the pattern of mass-spawning with external fertilisation more typical of Great Barrier Reef corals. I hypothesise that the release of brooded planulae would be advantageous in an isolated reef community because (a) brooded larvae can travel large distances and survive the journey to the isolated reef and/or (b) brooded larvae have a shorter period before they are competent to settle and are therefore more likely to be retained on the parental reef once a population has been established.