, Volume 98, Issue 4, pp 493-501

Patterns of formation and the ultrastructure of the larval skeleton of Pocillopora damicornis

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Abstract

The growth and development of the tissues and skeleton of settled larvae of the reef coral Pocillopora damicornis (Linnaeus), collected in December 1983 from Ko Phuket, Thailand, were investigated using light microscopy, scanning electron microscopy and transmission electron microscopy. The rate of development of larval skeletons was very variable, preventing the chronological sequencing of skeletal growth. However, four growth stages in the development of a complete larval skeleton from first settlement were identificd: Stage 1, deposition of the first elements of the basal plate upon settlement; Stage 2, completion of basal plate, and deposition of skeletal spines and ridges in positions corresponding to the septal cycles; Stage 3, formation of the corallite wall and septal and costal cycles; Stage 4, the complete larval skeleton which represented the maximum growth attained eight days after settlement. The configuration of the larval tissues, particularly the aboral ectoderm, mirrored the four developmental stages. The deposition of the larval skeleton was correlated with the metamorphosis of the aboral ectoderm from a columnar to a squamous morphology. The basal plate of the larval skeleton had two layers of crystals orientated perpendicular to each other. The architecture of the complete larval skeleton is described and compared to that of the adult skeleton of P. damicornis. The results are discussed with respect to previous concepts of the formation of the larval skeleton of scleractinian corals and coral calcification.

Communicated by J. Mauchline, Oban