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Post-settlement survivorship in two Caribbean broadcasting corals

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The post-settlement phase of broadcast-spawned coral life histories is poorly known due to its almost complete undetectability and, hence, presumed low abundance in the field. We used lab-cultured settled polyps of two important Caribbean reef-building species with negligible larval recruitment to quantify early post-settlement survivorship (6–9 weeks) over multiple years/cohorts and differing orientation on a reef in the Florida Keys. Orbicella faveolata showed significantly and consistently better survivorship in vertical rather than horizontal orientation, but no discernable growth overall. Meanwhile, Acropora palmata showed no significant difference in survivorship between orientations, but significantly greater growth in the horizontal orientation. Both species showed significant variation in mean survivorship between cohorts of different years; 0–47 % for O. faveolata and 12–49 % for A. palmata over the observed duration. These results demonstrate wide variation in success of cohorts and important differences in the larval recruitment capacities of these two important but imperiled reef-building species.

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I am indebted to a host of colleagues whose hard work enabled this report; D. Williams, A. Bright, C. Cameron, A. Valdivia, R. Wilborn, and L. Johnston. M.A. Coffroth and team collected larvae used in 2011. J. Fisch provided constructive comments on the manuscript. Funding and logistical support was provided by the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program, Mote Marine Laboratory Protect Our Reefs Program (Grant #POR-2009-14), and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (including permits FKNMS-2007-114, FKNMS-2010-055-A1 and FKNMS-2012-101).

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Correspondence to Margaret W. Miller.

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Communicated by Biology Editor Dr. Hugh Sweatman

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Miller, M.W. Post-settlement survivorship in two Caribbean broadcasting corals. Coral Reefs 33, 1041–1046 (2014).

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