Ultraviolet radiation effects on the behavior and recruitment of larvae from the reef coral Porites astreoides
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We tested the rarely considered hypothesis that the ultraviolet portion (UVR, 280–400 nm) of the light spectrum affects patterns of recruitment in reef-building corals. The premise for this hypothesis rests in the fact that biologically relevant intensities of UVR penetrate to considerable depths (>24 m) in the clear waters surrounding many coral reefs, and that reef organisms allocate substantial resources to prevent and repair UVR damage. The ability of larvae spawned by the brown morph of the Caribbean coral, Porites astreoides, to detect and avoid UVR was assessed in petri dishes where one-half of the dish was shielded from UVR and the other exposed. Observations made every 30 min between 10:30 and 13:30 h showed significantly higher densities of larvae swimming in regions shielded from UVR. To determine how this behavior affects settlement patterns, larvae collected from P. astreoides adults at 18 m depth were released into chambers deployed at 17 m depth where they were given a choice of three different light regions in which to settle: PAR (PAR=400–700 nm), PAR+UVAR (UVAR=320–400 nm), and PAR+UVAR+UVBR (UVBR=280–320 nm). At the end of the experiment, greater numbers of P. astreoides larvae had settled in the region of the tube where UVR was reduced than would be expected if dispersion were random. To our knowledge, this is the first demonstration in any reef-building coral species that planula larvae can detect UVR and that it affects their choice of a settlement site. These results indicate that the capacity to detect and avoid habitats with biologically damaging levels of UVR may be one factor contributing to the successful recruitment of coral larvae.
KeywordsCoral Reef Settlement Chamber Coral Rubble Pelagic Larva Settlement Site
This study was funded by subcontract UNCW 9920 from the National Undersea Research Program at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington (Award No. NA96RU-0260) under a permit from the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS-99-031). We thank S. Miller and the NURP staff for making our research visits productive and enjoyable. Captain Dave Ward provided technical advice and support that was critical to the completion of the project. We are indebted to J.A. Idjadi, T. Prude, S. Schopmeyer, and C. Zilberberg for their enthusiasm and willingness to work long hours in the field. S. Tso assisted in the identification and quantification of the settled larvae and D. Gleason provided field support for collection of the light data. The Evolution and Ecology Journal Club in the Department of Biology at Georgia Southern University, especially R. Chandler, A. Harvey, and L. Leege, provided valuable comments on an earlier draft, as did one anonymous reviewer. This is contribution number 1205 of the Hawai’i Institute of Marine Biology.
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