Reproduction in the sea pen Pennatula phosphorea (Anthozoa: Pennatulacea) from the west coast of Scotland
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- Edwards, D.C.B. & Moore, C.G. Mar Biol (2008) 155: 303. doi:10.1007/s00227-008-1028-6
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Reproduction in the sea pen Pennatula phosphorea Linnaeus 1758 was investigated in a population located in southern Loch Linnhe, west Scotland. This was accomplished through analysis of trends in oocyte size-frequency distribution and fecundity over a 12-month period. Pennatula phosphorea is dioecious and the study population exhibited a sex ratio of 1:1. Oogenesis in female P. phosphorea is characterised by the maintenance of a large pool of small oocytes throughout the year of which a small proportion (<30%) mature synchronously and are broadcast-spawned during the summer months of July and/or August. Although spawning occurs annually, the duration of oogenesis exceeds 12 months. Initial oocyte generation is best described as ‘quasi-continuous’ as it may be suppressed during winter. The timing and periodicity of oogenesis and spawning may be related to seasonal environmental cues and it is proposed that annual spawning constitutes a brief and synchronous event. Fecundity is high in P. phosphorea, typically up to 50 oocytes per polyp and 40,000 oocytes per colony in medium to large colonies. Although mean polyp fecundity increased with colony size (axial rod length) there was no seasonal fluctuation in this measure of relative fecundity. Since only a small proportion of oocytes present are spawned each year, the present study advises caution when making inferences regarding the seasonal output of viable oocytes, especially on occasions where the definition of fecundity or the details of the oogenic cycle of a species are unclear. Pennatula phosphorea produces large oocytes (>500 μm), indicative of the production of lecithotrophic larvae; this may confer certain advantages with respect to larval longevity and survival.