Stimulation of fat-body production in the polyps of the coralPocillopora damicornis by the presence of mutualistic crabs of the genusTrapezia
- Cite this article as:
- Stimson, J. Mar. Biol. (1990) 106: 211. doi:10.1007/BF01314802
A mutualism exists between the xanthid crabs of the genusTrapezia and their host corals,Pocillopora damicornis. It has previously been established that these obligate coral residents benefit the coral hosts by defending them against echinoderm predators and by increasing the survival of polyps located deep between the coral branches. In turn, the corals apparently benefit the crabs by producing lipid-filled structures on which the trapezid crabs feed; these fat bodies may contain some of the lipid which in previous studies of coral metabolism has been termed “excess”. It was determined by experiments conducted at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology that the presence of crabs in colonies ofP. damicornis stimulates the polyps to produce the lipid-filled fat bodies; removal of crabs causes corals to cease producing fat bodies. A structure very similar to the fat bodies ofP. damicornis has been reported inAcropora durvillei. Both of these coral genera ordinarily possess xanthid-crab mutualists. This association between branching corals and crustaceans may have evolved because corals of these genera provide shelter among their branches and because these shallow-water corals are evidently capable of releasing lipid which is excess to the corals' metabolic needs, but which can be utilized by the crabs.