Coral Reefs

, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp 217–224 | Cite as

The effects of prolonged “bleaching” on the tissue biomass and reproduction of the reef coral Montastrea annularis

  • A. M. Szmant
  • N. J. Gassman


Colonies of Montastrea annularis from Carysfort Reef, Florida, that remained bleached seven months after the 1987 Caribbean bleaching event were studied to determine the long term effects of bleaching on coral physiology. Two types of bleached colonies were found: colonies with low numbers of zooxanthellae with normal pigment content, and a colony with high densities of lowpigment zooxanthellae. In both types, the zooxanthellae had an abnormal distribution within polyp tissues: highest densities were observed in basal endoderm and in mesenteries where zooxanthellae are not normally found. Bleached corals had 30% less tissue carbon and 44% less tissue nitrogen biomass per skeletal surface area, but the same tissue C:N ratio as other colonies that either did not bleach (normal) or that bleached and regained their zooxanthellae (recovered). Bleached corals were not able to complete gametogenesis during the reproductive season following the bleaching, while recovered corals were able to follow a normal gametogenic cycle. It appears that bleached corals were able to survive the prolonged period without nutritional contribution from their zooxanthellae by consuming their own structural materials for maintenance, but then, did not have the resources necessary for reproduction. The recovered corals, on the other hand, must have regained their zooxanthellae soon after the bleaching event since neither their tissue biomass nor their ability to reproduce were impaired.


Reef Coral Pigment Content Reproductive Season Bleached Coral Bleaching Event 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. M. Szmant
    • 1
  • N. J. Gassman
    • 1
  1. 1.Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric ScienceUniversity of MiamiMiamiUSA

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