Comparative aspects of sexual reproduction in the Caribbean coral genus Diploria (Scleractinia: Faviidae)
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- Weil, E. & Vargas, W.L. Mar Biol (2010) 157: 413. doi:10.1007/s00227-009-1328-5
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The increasing decline of Caribbean reef-building species underlines the importance of more information on their reproductive biology and ecology. This study compares the reproductive biology of the three species of Diploria, an important Caribbean reef-building genus affected by bleaching and disease, by: (a) characterizing their gametogenetic cycles simultaneously, (b) exploring the spatial and temporal variability in reproductive traits within and across species, (c) assessing fecundity and the minimum size of sexual reproduction, and (d) comparing information with other studies in the Caribbean. Starting in 1999, one tissue core was collected every month (for 17 months) from each of at least five large, tagged colonies of each species in La Parguera, Puerto Rico. Three more temporally spaced samplings were done during summer of 2000 and winter–spring of 2001 and 2002. Tissues were fixed in Helly’s solution, rinsed in fresh water, decalcified with 10% HCl, and preserved in 70% ethanol, embedded in paraplast, cut, and thin slides (7 μm) prepared and stained with Heidenhain’s Aniline-Blue method. Maximum egg size, number of eggs and spermaries were measured and gametogenetic cycles assessed. Microscopic observations confirmed that all three species were simultaneous hermaphrodites with a single, annual gametogenetic cycle. Spermatocytes and oocytes developed within the same mesentery but were not intermingled. Female gametes developed several months earlier than that of males, but both reached maturation simultaneously. Minor differences in the onset of gametogenesis were found for D. strigosa and D. clivosa, with both spawning after 10 p.m. between 8 and 10 days after the August and/or September full moons. D. labyrinthiformis on the other hand, began oogenesis in early July and spawned after 11 p.m. between 7 and 10 days after the April and/or May full moons. Spatial and temporal variability in mean number of spermaries and eggs/mesentery among colonies within and among species were found. D. labyrinthiformis had consistently significant higher mesenterial and polyp fecundity compared to the other two species over the 3 years. Average egg diameter varied between 240 and 246 μm and was similar among the three species. D. strigosa and D. clivosa sexual reproductive characteristics were similar to those of other large broadcast spawning Faviidae (i.e. Montastraea spp) in the region. In contrast, D. labyrinthiformis was a spring spawner (similar to Colpophyllia natans in Puerto Rico), which together with its significantly different micromorphology suggests that it might be phylogenetically more distant to the other taxa.