Coral Reefs

, 24:594 | Cite as

Sexual reproduction in three hermaphroditic deep-sea Caryophyllia species (Anthozoa: Scleractinia) from the NE Atlantic Ocean

  • Rhian G. WallerEmail author
  • Paul A. Tyler
  • John D. Gage


The reproductive biology and gametogenesis of three species of Caryophyllia were examined using histological techniques. Caryophyllia ambrosia, Alcock 1898, C. cornuformis, Pourtales 1868, and C. sequenzae, Duncan 1873, were collected from the Porcupine Seabight and Rockall Trough in the NE Atlantic Ocean. These three ahermatypic solitary corals inhabit different depth ranges: C. cornuformis – 435–2000 m, C. sequenzae – 960–1900 m, and C. ambrosia – 1100–3000 m. All three species are hermaphroditic. Hermaphroditism in these species was found to be cyclical, with only one sex of gametes viable in any individual at any point in time, although gametes of both sexes were found together within a single mesentery. Once the viable gametes are spawned, the next sex of gametes continues to grow until mature, and so gametogenesis is a continuous cycle. Oocytes and spermacysts in all species increased in density towards the actinopharynx. Maximum fecundity for C. sequenzae was 940 oocytes per polyp, and for C. ambrosia 2900 oocytes per polyp. Fecundity could not be established for C. cornuformis. In all three species, individuals were asynchronous within populations, and production of gametes was quasi-continuous throughout the year. All species are hypothesised to have lecithotrophic larvae owing to their large oocyte sizes (C. cornuformis max – 350 μm; C. sequenzae max – 430 μm; C. ambrosia max – 700 μm). Both the average oocyte size and fecundity increased in species going down the depth gradient of the NE Atlantic.


Ahermatypic Azooxanthellate Solitary coral Gametogenesis Cyclical hermaphrodite 



This research was supported by the European Union ‘Atlantic Coral Ecosystem Study’ contract no. EVK3-CT1999-00008. For sample collection we would like to thank the Captains and crew of the RRS Challenger, RRS Charles Darwin, and the RRS Discovery. Peter Lamont and Murray Roberts also provided invaluable assistance in obtaining samples from DML, Oban. We would also like to thank three anonymous reviewers for useful comments and suggestions that greatly improved this mnauscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rhian G. Waller
    • 1
    Email author
  • Paul A. Tyler
    • 2
  • John D. Gage
    • 3
  1. 1.Woods Hole Oceanographic InstitutionWoods HoleUSA
  2. 2.Southampton Oceanography CentreSouthamptonUK
  3. 3.Scottish Association for Marine BiologyDunstaffnage Marine LaboratoryOban, ArgyllUK

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