Coral Reefs

, Volume 32, Issue 3, pp 703–717 | Cite as

Genotypic variation influences reproductive success and thermal stress tolerance in the reef building coral, Acropora palmata

  • I. B. BaumsEmail author
  • M. K. Devlin-Durante
  • N. R. Polato
  • D. Xu
  • S. Giri
  • N. S. Altman
  • D. Ruiz
  • J. E. Parkinson
  • J. N. Boulay


The branching coral Acropora palmata is a foundation species of Caribbean reefs that has been decimated in recent decades by anthropogenic and natural stressors. Declines in population density and genotypic diversity likely reduce successful sexual reproduction in this self-incompatible hermaphrodite and might impede recovery. We investigated variation among genotypes in larval development under thermally stressful conditions. Six two-parent crosses and three four-parent batches were reared under three temperatures and sampled over time. Fertilization rates differed widely with two-parent crosses having lower fertilization rates (5–56 %, mean 22 % ± 22 SD) than batches (from 31 to 87 %, mean 59 % ± 28 SD). Parentage analysis of larvae in batch cultures showed differences in gamete compatibility among parents, coinciding with significant variation in both sperm morphology and egg size. While all larval batches developed more rapidly at increased water temperatures, rate of progression through developmental stages varied among batches, as did swimming speed. Together, these results indicate that loss of genotypic diversity exacerbates already severe limitations in sexual reproductive success of A. palmata. Nevertheless, surviving parental genotypes produce larvae that do vary in their phenotypic response to thermal stress, with implications for adaptation, larval dispersal and population connectivity in the face of warming sea surface temperatures.


Genotype by environment interaction Climate change Larval development Compatibility Sperm morphology Egg provisioning 



Thanks to SECORE for their invaluable help and guidance over the duration of this project, especially D. Peterson, M. Brittsan, N. Ireland, A. Marshall, B. Snowden, B. Christie, and M. Hagedorn. Steve Tamar and the Surf Rider Foundation, Puerto Rico chapter helped with logistics and sample collection. We are grateful to K. McAndrew and A. Wing for help with sperm morphology measurements. Thanks to M. Miller for reviewing a draft of the manuscript. Spawning activities and sample collections were conducted under DNER permit numbers 06-IC-027/08-CIC-001. Support was provided by National Science Foundation grant OCE 0825979 and the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program to IB.

Supplementary material

338_2013_1012_MOESM1_ESM.docx (15 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 14 kb)
338_2013_1012_MOESM2_ESM.doc (66 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (DOC 66 kb)
338_2013_1012_MOESM3_ESM.tif (8.9 mb)
Figure S1 Schematic of the common garden aquaria used for rearing Acropora palmata larvae (A). There were three temperature treatments, each containing four tanks with ten kreisels. The photograph (B) shows the set up for two of the three temperatures. Drip irrigation from the top (PVC frame) circulated water in each kreisel. Temperature in each 45 L bin was independently regulated with a mini chiller unit (visible underneath the inflow lines). (TIFF 9065 kb)
338_2013_1012_MOESM4_ESM.eps (605 kb)
Figure S2 Monthly mean sea surface temperature for the Puerto Rico NOAA Coral Reef Watch Satellite Virtual Station from December 2000 to the present. Data derived from satellite nighttime sea surface temperatures observed by the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) instrument carried on NOAA’s Polar Orbiting Environmental Satellites (POES). Monitoring product descriptions and associated methodology are available at the CRW web site: (EPS 604 kb)
338_2013_1012_MOESM5_ESM.eps (725 kb)
Figure S3 The size of an individual coral’s eggs did not affect the percent of contribution to an Acropora palmata batch culture. Batch II, III and V are represented by squares, triangles, and circles, respectively. Area (μm2) measurements are of eggs preserved in ethanol before fertilization. Percent contribution to batch was calculated at ca. 27 hpf. Linear regression is not significant (F1,9 = 1.74, R2 = 0.07, p > 0.1). (EPS 724 kb)
338_2013_1012_MOESM6_ESM.eps (662 kb)
Figure S4 Over the range of sperm concentration used in Acropora palmata batch cultures, fertilization rate was linearly related with a slope of -1.32 × 10 −9 ± 1.19 × 10 −10 and intercept of 0.89 ± 0.03 SE (F1,1 = 122.93, R adj 2  = 0.98, p = 0.057). Batch II, III and V are represented by squares, triangles, and circles, respectively. (EPS 661 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • I. B. Baums
    • 1
    Email author
  • M. K. Devlin-Durante
    • 1
  • N. R. Polato
    • 1
  • D. Xu
    • 1
  • S. Giri
    • 1
  • N. S. Altman
    • 2
  • D. Ruiz
    • 1
  • J. E. Parkinson
    • 1
  • J. N. Boulay
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologyPennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA
  2. 2.Department of StatisticsPennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA

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