Chemical signals in gametogenesis, spawning, and larval settlement and defense of the soft coral Sinularia polydactyla
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Mass spawning strategies of hard and soft corals on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia have been described in recent years. Nonetheless, the applicability of those studies to corals on other reef systems has not been well documented. Here we describe the mass spawning behavior of the soft coral Sinularia polydactyla on coral reefs surrounding Guam; specifically we describe the events in an annual gametogenic cycle including steroidogenesis, spawning, settlement and early life history defense. The gametogenic cycle of female colonies lasted 12 months while male colonies produced viable sperm within 9 months. Sinularia polydactyla exhibited a split spawn between March and June that correlated with a significant reduction in tissue concentrations of progesterone and testosterone. Estradiol was released into the water column, apparently by female colonies, just prior to spawning. There was a trend for preferential larval settlement in the presence of the crustose coralline algae Hydrolithon reinboldii rather than coral rubble, a natural biofilm, or filtered seawater. The defensive compounds pukalide and 11β-acetoxypukalide were found in eggs and larvae at adult level and three-fold lower than adult-level concentrations, respectively. These compounds provided some predator deterrent and antimicrobial protection against an ecologically relevant omnivorous fish Canthigaster solandri and a sympatric microbe Vibrio sp.
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