Coral Reefs

, Volume 31, Issue 2, pp 613–619 | Cite as

Ontogenetic change in the lipid and fatty acid composition of scleractinian coral larvae

  • J. Figueiredo
  • A. H. Baird
  • M. F. Cohen
  • J.-F. Flot
  • T. Kamiki
  • T. Meziane
  • M. Tsuchiya
  • H. Yamasaki


Some scleractinian coral larvae have an extraordinary capacity to delay metamorphosis, and this is reflected in the large geographic range of many species. Coral eggs typically contain a high proportion of wax esters, which have been hypothesized to provide a source of energy for long-distance dispersal. To better understand the role of lipids in the dispersal of broadcast spawning coral larvae, ontogenetic changes in the lipid and fatty acid composition of Goniastrea retiformis were measured from the eggs until larvae were 30 days old. Egg biomass was 78.8 ± 0.5% lipids, 86.3 ± 0.2% of which were wax esters, 9.3 ± 0.0% polar lipids, 4.1 ± 0.2% sterols, and 0.3 ± 0.1% triacylglycerols. The biomass of wax esters declined significantly through time, while polar lipids, sterols and triacylglycerols remained relatively constant, suggesting that wax esters are the prime source of energy for development. The most prevalent fatty acid in the eggs was palmitic acid, a marker of the dinoflagellate Symbiodinium, highlighting the importance of symbiosis in coral reproductive ecology. The proportion of polyunsaturated fatty acids declined through time, suggesting that they are essential for larval development. Interestingly, triacylglycerols are only abundant in the propagules that contain Symbiodinium, suggesting important differences in the energetic of dispersal among species with vertical and horizontal transmission of symbionts.


Coral reefs Development Dispersal Fertilization Goniastrea Metabolism 



The Japanese Society for Promotion of Science, the Japanese Government (Monbukagakusho Scholarship programme), the Australian Research Council (DP110101168) and the Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (SFRH/BPD/62936/2009) supported this project. Prof H. Oku kindly provided advice, materials, and lab space for HPTLC.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. Figueiredo
    • 1
  • A. H. Baird
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • M. F. Cohen
    • 3
    • 4
  • J.-F. Flot
    • 3
    • 5
  • T. Kamiki
    • 2
  • T. Meziane
    • 6
  • M. Tsuchiya
    • 3
  • H. Yamasaki
    • 2
  1. 1.ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef StudiesJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia
  2. 2.Centre of Molecular Biosciences (COMB)University of the RyukyusNishihara, OkinawaJapan
  3. 3.Department of Chemistry, Biology and Marine Science, Faculty of ScienceUniversity of the RyukyusNishihara, OkinawaJapan
  4. 4.Department of BiologySonoma State UniversityRohnert ParkUSA
  5. 5.URBO, Department of BiologyUniversity of NamurNamurBelgium
  6. 6.UMR BOREA, Muséum National d’Histoire NaturelleCNRS 7208Paris CedexFrance

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