, Volume 136, Issue 4, pp 524–531 | Cite as

Reproductive energy investment in corals: scaling with module size

  • Sebastian Leuzinger
  • Kenneth R. N. Anthony
  • Bette L. Willis


In colonial modular organisms, differences in module size and colony growth patterns among species have the potential to impose varying constraints on reproductive investment. Here, we compare reproductive output among seven morphologically different species of spawning reef corals, and analyse the relationship between reproductive output and module (polyp) size. Reproductive output ranged between 132 and 384 J cm−2, with lipid constituting the key indicator of energy investment. Lipid decreased by 85–100%, whereas protein and carbohydrate were relatively invariant between pre- and post-spawning tissues in all species, representing 1–15% and <1%, respectively, of the energy investment to reproductive output. The ratio of energy content in reproductive to somatic tissues (gonadosomatic index, GSI) varied among species from 0.20 (Symphyllia recta) to 1.31 (Acropora tenuis), the latter being the highest value reported for any iteroparous marine invertebrate. Surprisingly, small-polyped species (Acropora, Montipora) had 2- to 6-fold higher GSIs than large-polyped ones (Lobophyllia, Symphyllia). Energy equivalents of tissues increased with the 1.50–1.76 power of polyp diameter for somatic tissues and with the 1.42–1.80 power of polyp diameter for reproductive output. In both cases, increases in energy equivalents with polyp diameter were less than the scaling exponent of 3 predicted for an isometric relationship between tissue volume (or mass) and polyp diameter, indicating significant constraints of space, design or physiological energetics with increasing polyp size. We hypothesise that such constraints have played a key role in the evolution of modularity in cnidarians.


Energy investment Reproduction Geometric constraints Biochemistry Scleractinian coral 



We are grateful to Noel Nevers, Sarah Dalesman and Vincent Riviere for assistance in the field and to the staff of Orpheus Island Research Station. We thank Phil Munday, Julian Caley and Andrew Baird for their critical reading and valuable comments. Two anonymous reviewers provided helpful comments that improved the manuscript. The research was supported by grants from the Australian Research Council to K.R.N.A. (A00105071) and to BLW (A 19933007) and a CRC Reef Research Award to S.L. This is contribution number 74 from the Centre for Coral Reef Biodiversity and number 199 from the Coral Ecology Group at James Cook University.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sebastian Leuzinger
    • 1
  • Kenneth R. N. Anthony
    • 1
    • 2
  • Bette L. Willis
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Marine Biology and AquacultureJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia
  2. 2.Centre for Coral Reef BiodiversityJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia

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