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Differential larval settlement responses of Porites astreoides and Acropora palmata in the presence of the green alga Halimeda opuntia


Settlement is critical to maintaining coral cover on reefs, yet interspecific responses of coral planulae to common benthic macroalgae are not well characterized. Larval survival and settlement of two Caribbean reef-building corals, the broadcast-spawner Acropora palmata and the planulae-brooder Porites astreoides, were quantified following exposure to plastic algae controls and the green macroalga Halimeda opuntia. Survival and settlement rates were not significantly affected by the presence of H. opuntia in either species. However, ~10 % of P. astreoides larvae settled on the surface of the macroalga, whereas larvae of A. palmata did not. It is unlikely that corals that settle on macroalgae will survive post-settlement; therefore, H. opuntia may reduce the number of P. astreoides and other non-discriminatory larvae that survive to adulthood. Our results suggest that the presence of macroalgae on impacted reefs can have unexpected repercussions for coral recruitment and highlight discrepancies in settlement specificity between corals with distinct life history strategies.

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Funding was provided by Mote Protect Our Reef Grant program (POR 2013-27) and Smithsonian Competitive Grants Program for Science. We thank L. Johnston, M. Jones, Z. Foltz, A. Wood, M. Henley, D. Dixson, K. Ritchie, M. Schwartz, J. Skutas, A. Augustines and L. Spiers for assistance with larval collection and experiments. We thank the Belize Fisheries Department for providing permits to conduct research at Carrie Bow Cay, Belize. In the Florida Keys, coral larvae were collected under Permit No. FKNMS-2013-021. This is Contribution No. 1019 from the Smithsonian Marine Station and No. 983 from the CCRE program.

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Correspondence to V. J. Paul.

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Communicated by Biology Editor Dr. Mark R. Patterson

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Olsen, K., Sneed, J.M. & Paul, V.J. Differential larval settlement responses of Porites astreoides and Acropora palmata in the presence of the green alga Halimeda opuntia . Coral Reefs 35, 521–525 (2016).

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  • Settlement
  • Coral recruitment
  • Macroalgae
  • Porites astreoides
  • Acropora palmata