, Volume 29, Issue 3, pp 631-636
Date: 03 Jan 2010

Plasticity of larval pre-competency in response to temperature: observations on multiple broadcast spawning coral species

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Abstract

The pre-competency period of coral larvae influences dispersal, and this may be affected under projected climate change conditions. In this laboratory study, we examined the influence of sea water temperature on the duration of pre-competency of larvae of four broadcast spawning coral species. Fungia repanda, Acropora millepora, A. spathulata and Symphyllia recta larvae demonstrated large differences in cohort competency levels when cultured over a 4°C range during the first 4 days post fertilisation. Warmer temperatures reduced pre-competency periods by at least a day for all species, but there were also indications of an upper temperature threshold of less than 32°C for the development of F. repanda, A. millepora and S. recta. These data suggest a general flexibility in ontogenic response to ambient water temperatures. Sea surface temperatures (SST) that differ at spawning time by as little as 2°C, due to inter-annual or latitudinal variation, are likely to alter coral larval dispersal ranges. In some locations, notably the central Indo-Pacific, where major coral spawning activity can coincide with seasonal SST maxima, a future 2°C increase due to climate change may have serious negative effects on coral development and distribution.

Communicated by Biology Editor Dr. Andrew Baird