Branching growth is present both in plants and animals, either marine or terrestrial. Although cellular and other modular levels of organization in plants and animals have evolved through different molecular and physiological mechanisms, several aspects of their branching modular system and morphology are similar. We studied vessel organization and colony integration, in order to comprehend underlying relationships between different structural components in a gorgonian coral network. The theoretical formalism was validated in the gorgonian coral Eunicea mammosa (Plexauridae, Octocorallia) in Belize. As in vascular plants, these colonial animals create a complex network of connections among modular branches integrated in stem canals downstream toward the base. A new formalism is proposed for describing gorgonian branching. A global property of a colony is for instance the size of its base or its weight whereas a local property is the size of branch in a particular place of the colony. However, a global property is not the simple addition of local modular properties, as the case of stem canals in the colony base. Theoretically, the process of branching is tightly intertwined with the internal network organization. The colony network centralization is driven by a linear relationship between the total number of branches and the stem canals at the base of the colony. If stem canals play important roles in the transport of nutrients throughout the colony and the biomechanical support from the base up to the tips, we can assume that there is an underlying association between the number of stem canals at the base and the number of for example, terminal branches. These associations may provide new findings that extend our understanding of the functional organization of tree-like networks in octocorals and their vascular systems. The idea that the external components of a tree-like plant network are directly correlated and connected down to the main trunk seems to be analogous in an animal system.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Bayer FM (1973) Colonial organization in octocorals. In: Boardman RS, Cheetham AH, Oliver WA (eds) Animal colonies, development and function through time. Dowden, Hutchinson and Ross, Stroudsburg, pp 69–93
Boller ML, Carrington E (2006) In situ measurements of hydrodynamic force imposed on Chondrus crispus Stackhouse. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 337:159–170
Borges RM (2005) Do plants and animals differ in phenotypic plasticity? J Biosci 30:41–50
Carrington E (1990) Drag and dislodgment of an intertidal macroalga: consequences of morphological variation in Mastocarpus papillatus Kützing. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 139:185–200
Chiba Y (1991) Plant form based on the pipe model theory. II. Quantitative analysis of ramification and morphology. Ecol Res 6:21–28
Fonseca MS, Koehla MAR, Kopp BS (2007) Biomechanical factors contributing to self-organization in seagrass landscapes. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 340:227–246
Gateno D, Israel A, Barki Y, Rinkevich B (1998) Gastrovascular circulation in an octocoral: evidence of significant transport of coral and symbiont cells. Biol Bull 194:178–186
Goffredo S, Lasker HR (2006) Modular growth of a gorgonian coral can generate predictable patterns of colony growth. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 336:221–229
Johnson AS (2001) Drag, drafting, and mechanical interactions in canopies of the red algae Chondrus crispus. Biol Bull 201:126–135
Kaandorp JA, Kübler J (2001) The algorithmic beauty of seaweeds, sponges and corals. Springer, Amsterdam
Kim K, Lasker HR (1998) Resource capture and constraints on modular growth. Funct Ecol 12:646–654
Kitzes JA, Denny MW (2005) Red algae respond to waves: morphological and mechanical variation in Mastocarpus papillatus along a gradient of force. Biol Bull 208:114–119
Koskela J (2000) A process-based growth model for the grass pine seedlings. Silva Fennica 34:3–20
Lasker HR, Sánchez JA (2002) Allometry and astogeny of modular organisms. In: Hugues RN (ed) Reproductive biology of invertebrates. Wiley, New York, pp 207–253
Lasker HR, Boller ML, Castanaro J, Sánchez JA (2003) Determinate growth and modularity in a gorgonian octocoral. Biol Bull 205:319–330
Pratt MP, Johnson AS (2002) Strength, drag, and dislodgment of two competing intertidal algae from two wave exposures and four seasons. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 272:71–101
Prusinkiewicz P (1998) Modeling of spatial structure and development of plants: a review. Sci Hortic 74:113–149
Puijalon S, Bornette G, Sagnes P (2005) Adaptations to increasing hydraulic stress: morphology, hydrodynamics and fitness of two higher aquatic plant species. J Exp Bot 56:77–86
Richter JP (1939) The literary works of Leonardo da Vinci. Oxford University Press, London
Rinkevich B (2002) The branching coral Stylophora pistillata: contribution of genetics in shaping colony landscape. Isr J Zool 48:71–82
Robichaud E, Methven IR (1991) Tree vigor and height growth in Black Spruce. Trees 5:158–163
Sánchez JA (2004) Evolution and dynamics of branching colonial form in marine modular cnidarians: gorgonian octocorals. Hydrobiologia 530:283–290
Sánchez JA, Lasker HR (2004) Do multi-branched colonial organisms exceed normal growth after partial mortality? Proc R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 271:S117–S120
Sánchez JA, Lasker HR (2003) Patterns of morphological integration in marine modular organisms: supra-module organization in branching octocoral colonies. Proc R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 270:2039–2044
Sánchez JA, Lasker HR, Nepomuceno EG, Sanchez JD, Woldenberg MJ (2004) Branching and self-organization in marine modular colonial organisms: a model. Am Nat 163:E24–E39
Sánchez JA, Lasker HR, Zeng W, Coluci VR, Simpson C (2003) How similar are branching networks in nature? A view from the ocean: Caribbean gorgonian corals. J Theor Biol 222:135–138
Sánchez JA, Aguilar C, Dorado D, Manrique N (2007) Phenotypic plasticity and morphological integration in a marine modular invertebrate. BMC Evol Biol 7:12
Shinozaki K, Yoda K, Hozumi K, Kira T (1964) A quantitative analysis of plant form-the pipe model theory. I. Basic analyses. Jpn J Ecol 14:97–105
Sievänen R (1993) A process-based model for the dimensional growth of even-aged stages. Scand J For Res 8:28–48
Tracey DM, Neil H, Marriott P, Andrews AH, Cailliet GM, Sánchez JA (2007) Age and growth of two genera of deep-sea bamboo corals (Family Isididae) in New Zealand waters. Bull Mar Sci 81:393–408
Valentine HT (1997) Height growth, site index, and carbon metabolism. Silva Fennica 31:251–263
Wainwright SA, Biggs WD, Currey JD, Gosline JM (1976) Mechanical design in organisms. Princeton University Press, London
We want to thank our sponsors, Vicerrectoría de Investigaciones (Proyecto interfacultades), Facultad de Ingeniería, Facultad de Ciencias and Department of Biological Sciences (Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá, Colombia), COLCIENCIAS (Grant # 1204-09-177774, J.A. Sánchez), and Smithsonian Institution. Special thanks to H. R. Lasker (U. Buffalo), whom ideas and discussions were of great influence to develop this study. We are also grateful to the Smithsonian Institution Marine Science Network (K. Ruetzler and M. Lang) for their field support (NMNH-CCRE contribution No. 874), and to M. Orkisz (CREATIS Laboratory, Lyon, France) and J. Adrien (MATEIS Laboratory, Lyon, France) for their contribution in acquiring the high-resolution computed tomography images of corals. Comments from T. Goulet and three anonymous reviewers greatly improved the manuscript.
Communicated by T. L. Goulet.
About this article
Cite this article
Cadena, N.J., Rey, C., Hernández-Hoyos, M. et al. Linking local to global properties in branching modular networks: gorgonian coral colonies. Mar Biol 157, 1003–1010 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00227-009-1380-1