Coral Reefs

, Volume 31, Issue 3, pp 705–713 | Cite as

Sexual systems in scleractinian corals: an unusual pattern in the reef-building species Diploastrea heliopora

  • J. R. Guest
  • A. H. Baird
  • B. P. L. Goh
  • L. M. Chou


The sexual system in corals refers to the spatial and temporal pattern of sexual function within an individual coral polyp, colony or population. Although information on sexual systems now exists for over 400 scleractinian species, data are still lacking for some important reef-building taxa. The vast majority of scleractinians are either simultaneous hermaphrodites or gonochoric with other sexual systems rarely occurring. Diploastrea heliopora is one of the most ubiquitous and easily recognised reef-building species in the Indo-West Pacific; however, surprisingly little is known about its reproductive biology. The aim of the present study was to examine the reproductive biology of D. heliopora colonies on chronically impacted, equatorial reefs south of Singapore. Here we show that in Singapore, D. heliopora is a broadcast spawner with predominantly gonochoric polyps. Colonies, however, contained male, female and a low proportion of cosexual polyps during the 14-month sampling period. The most plausible explanation for this is that polyps switch sexes with oogenic and spermatogenic cycles occasionally overlapping. This leads to colony level alternation of sex function within and between breeding seasons. While this sexual system is atypical for scleractinians, it supports molecular evidence that D. heliopora is phylogenetically distinct from species formerly in the family Faviidae.


Coral reef Reproduction Singapore 



J.R. Guest was supported by a National University of Singapore Graduate Fellowship and a Singapore Ministry of Education Academic Research Fund Tier 1 FRC Grant (Grant number: R-154-000-432-112).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. R. Guest
    • 1
    • 4
  • A. H. Baird
    • 2
  • B. P. L. Goh
    • 3
  • L. M. Chou
    • 1
  1. 1.Marine Biology Laboratory, Department of Biological SciencesNational University of SingaporeSingaporeSingapore
  2. 2.ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef StudiesJames Cook University of North QueenslandTownsvilleAustralia
  3. 3.Natural Sciences and Science EducationNational Institute of Education/NTUSingaporeSingapore
  4. 4.Centre for Marine Bio-innovationUniversity of New South WalesSydneyAustralia

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