Reef coral reproduction in the Abrolhos Reef Complex, Brazil: the endemic genus Mussismilia
The current contribution deals with the reproductive biology of a genus endemic to Brazil –Mussismilia Ortmann, 1890 – including all three species of the genus: M. braziliensis (Verrill, 1868), M. hartti (Verrill, 1868), and M. hispida (Verrill, 1902), which occur sympatrically in the studied area, the Abrolhos Reef Complex, Brazil. Sexuality patterns, modes of reproduction, synchrony and spawning periods are reported, and were determined by histological examination of material. All three species started to develop female and male gametes over different periods in the same breeding season. The three species are probably broadcast spawners, since no embryos or planulae were observed in any species at any given time of the year. Each reproductive cycle lasted approximately 11 months. Oogenesis and spermatogenesis started in different periods, with spermaries appearing in approximately the eighth month of ovary development and lasting about 3 months. Reproductive cycles were annual. Spawning probably occurred in consecutive months in each species. In M. braziliensis, spawning presumably happened between March and the middle of May in 1996 and 1997. Evidence suggested that spawning events of M. hispida took place between the end of April and mid-June. M. hartti may have spawned between September and November. The data presented here suggested that all studied species have at least one exclusive spawning period, asynchronically with the others. A possible exception may be the simultaneous (or close) spawnings of M. braziliensis and M. hispida in May. It is suggested that asynchrony in spawning periods among species may reduce the chance of hybridization, gamete waste and the competition for settlement surfaces. The occurrence of extended spawning periods for each species may also reduce the risks of reproductive failure, due to temporary adverse conditions.
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