Reproduction patterns of four Antarctic octocorals in the Weddell Sea: an inter-specific, shape, and latitudinal comparison
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The reproductive patterns of four Antarctic gorgonian species have been investigated. Two of them, Dasystenella acanthina and Thouarella sp., present the bottle-brush-shape type; the other two, Fannyella rossii and Fannyella spinosa, are fan-shaped. Two different reproductive patterns have been observed in D. acanthina and Thouarella sp., which point to two size classes in the frequency distribution of oocytes. This feature indicates a reproduction cycle with overlapping generations, being each of them of more than one year, probably with seasonal spawning. F. rossii and F. spinosa show only one size class of oocytes, which could point towards an annual reproductive cycle. The presence of larvae in the gastrovascular cavities in both Fanyella species and Thoaurella sp. is a sign of a possible larvae release during austral summer. The number of oocytes per polyp ranges from 1.1 ± 0.10 SE to 1.5 ± 0.06 SE, and the size ranges from 50 to 1200 μm. The number of spermatic cysts ranges from 2.6 ± 0.19 SE to 5.0 ± 0.21SE, and their sizes range from 50 to 800 μm. These values are comparable to the reproductive trends and features found in gorgonians from other latitudes, which correspond in some cases with similar morphotypes. These coincident strategies could be related to morphological similarities rather than with latitude or water temperature. The results of this study indicate that octocoral morphology may play a crucial role in determining the reproductive output of these organisms.