Asexual reproduction and genetic determination of growth form in the coral Pavona cactus: biochemical genetic and immunogenic evidence
Tissue grafting and electrophoresis were used to study the genotypic structure of a population of the scleractinian coral, Pavona cactus. Three growth forms were distinguished within one continuous population of this morphologically variable species. Both techniques provided evidence of localized asexual reproduction within each growth form, a result consistent with numerous field observations of naturally occurring fragments. A perfect association between clonal genotype and growth form was found in an electrophoretic survey of 80 colonies. 23 multi-locus genotypes were detected in the 80 colonies tested. All genotypically similar colonies had the same growth form, even where colonies were separated by 50 m. Although environmental gradients undoubtedly modify colony morphology, the high correlation between genotype and growth form suggests that major differences in colony morphology are genetically determined.
Tissue grafting tests did not reliably identify all clones. Fusions developed between all electrophoretically indistinguishable colonies, consistent with the initial assumption that fusion between paired colonies would indicate ‘selfrecognition’. However, there was also one fusion in 20 pairings of electrophoretically different colonies. Although there was general agreement between the two techniques, the one inconsistent fusion suggests that caution should be exercised in the application of histocompatibility tests as bioassays for clonal population structure, and that electrophoresis is the more appropriate technique for this species.
The ability of genotypes to dominate in intraspecific competitive interactions and to survive fragmentation was assessed. An intraspecific dominance hierarchy was identified among the 6 clones tested. Competition was highly asymmetrical between dominant and subordinate-ranking clones. Genotypes that were most successful in producing widespread clones were found to dominate intraspecific competitive interactions and had high rates of fragment survival.
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