Fecundity of red coral Corallium rubrum (L.) populations inhabiting in contrasting environmental conditions in the NW Mediterranean
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In this study, we examined the variability and potential patterns of fecundity in the precious Mediterranean red coral Corallium rubrum (L. 1758). A total of 12 populations were selected from the NW Mediterranean Sea. We used a hierarchical sampling design to explore fecundity patterns associated with different environmental conditions found in different cave zones (entrance vs. interior), depths (15–22 vs. 39–42 m), and geographic locations (Côte Bleue vs. Calanques). Overall, 240 apical tips from colonies (10 male + 10 female colonies per population) were analyzed. Fecundity ranged between 1.0 ± 0.7 and 3.2 ± 2.3 mature gonads per polyp in female colonies and between 2.5 ± 1.6 and 6.9 ± 2.5 mature gonads per polyp in male colonies. The fecundity of red coral varied significantly for populations dwelling in different cave zones and geographic areas but not for the examined depths. Our results contribute to the knowledge of red coral fecundity in populations not yet studied in the NW Mediterranean and elucidate significant variability in fecundity within different environmental conditions. The information on coral fecundity can contribute to the development of management and conservation plans for red coral populations.