The reproductive seasonality and gametogenic cycle of Acropora cervicornis off Broward County, Florida, USA

Abstract

Reproductive characters of the Caribbean reef-building coral Acropora cervicornis were investigated based on histological samples collected from April 2001 through October 2002. Oogenesis commenced in early to mid-October through November and spermatogenesis was initiated from January to March. The onset of gametogenesis was staggered, exhibiting up to approximately a 1-month delay within colonies. In the hermaphroditic polyps, the observed male-to-female gonad ratio was nearly 1:1 and ripe oocytes represented over 70% of the total gonadal volume. Fecundity estimates based on Stage IV ova ranged between 10.4 and 21.8 mm3 per square centimeter per year, comparable to A. cervicornis in Puerto Rico and other broadcasting Indo-Pacific Acropora. Fecundity estimates based on Stage III vitellogenic oocytes indicated statistically significant differences among study sites. Spawning in field conditions was observed in 2001, 2003, and 2004 from 2300 to 2330 h. Gamete release generally occurred synchronously between nights two and seven after the full moon of July or August. However in 2003, multiple, small-scale gamete release episodes occurred over more than one lunar cycle. This coincided with the full moon occurring early in the month of July. While prolific gamete production is reported in this study, low levels of recruitment have been reported for this species. Thus, the highly fragmenting A. cervicornis may rely heavily on asexual reproduction for population maintenance and expansion, and recovery after disturbance may be greatly protracted.

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Acknowledgments

We thank B. Ettinger, M. Berkle, and H. Halter for assistance in collecting corals. We also gratefully acknowledge P. Glynn and E. Peters for laboratory space, equipment, and histological supplies. We thank C. Messing and A. Rogers for the use of photo-microscopy equipment. Collection permits were made possible through W. Jaap, K. Ethridge and L. Gregg at the Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission (collection permits 0IS-606, 02IMP-606, and 02R-669). Comments by H. Lasker, and one anonymous reviewer greatly improved the quality of this manuscript. Logistical support was provided by L. Robinson. We also thank A. Renegar, R, Moyer, R Wolcott, E. Hodel, J. Feingold, S. Thornton, N. Garbarino, M. Cho, J. Craft, G. Foster, M. Cuvelier, and A. Hemphill for assistance with night dives. Partial personnel funding (S. Colley) was provided by EPA grant No. GR828020-01 to NCORE. This research was funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Coastal Ocean Program under award #NA06OA0390 to Nova Southeastern University for the National Coral Reef Institute.

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Correspondence to Bernardo Vargas-Ángel.

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Communicated by Biological Editor H.R. Lasker

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Vargas-Ángel, B., Colley, S.B., Hoke, S.M. et al. The reproductive seasonality and gametogenic cycle of Acropora cervicornis off Broward County, Florida, USA. Coral Reefs 25, 110–122 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00338-005-0070-9

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Keywords

  • Acropora cervicornis
  • Gametogenesis
  • Sexual reproduction
  • Florida