Elevated temperature reduces survivorship and settlement of the larvae of the Caribbean scleractinian coral, Favia fragum (Esper)
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- Randall, C.J. & Szmant, A.M. Coral Reefs (2009) 28: 537. doi:10.1007/s00338-009-0482-z
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The effect of elevated seawater temperatures, such as those plaguing tropical seas during the summers of anomalously warm years, on early life stages of reef corals remains poorly studied. To redress this situation, survivorship of larvae of the brooding coral, Favia fragum, was studied in the laboratory, using both short term (48 h) and long term (156–191 h) exposures to 28, 29, and 31°C. Ability to settle when presented with induction substrates and survival after settlement, at the same exposure temperature and after reciprocal transfers to the other experimental temperatures, were also measured. No significant effect of temperature on survivorship was detected after 48 h of exposure, but larvae incubated for 156 h at the highest temperature (31°C) exhibited a 13% reduced survivorship compared to larvae at 28°C. Induction of settlement further increased mortality at the highest temperature (31°C); survivorship after settlement at 31°C was 27% lower than when larvae were simply maintained at the elevated temperature. These results indicate that elevated temperatures are more detrimental to coral larvae undergoing the developmentally complex settlement process than to the swimming planula stage. This may bode poorly for Caribbean corals with late summer reproductive seasons.