The octocoral Sarcophyton auritum Verseveldt & Benayahu, 1983, is considered endemic to the Red Sea. We investigate here for the first time its distribution on the Eilat reefs and its sexual reproductive features. Quantitative surveys revealed S. auritum is relative rarity with the Morisita index indicating that the colonies exhibit a clumped distribution, frequently growing in groups. This spatial distribution may result from the species’ reproductive features. S. auritum was found to be gonochoric. Female colonies demonstrated a prolonged oogenic cycle (18–21 months), featuring two size groups of oocytes, each presenting a separate developmental cycle. The male spermatogenetic cycle was shorter (8–10 months), with one developmental cycle at a time. Colonies spawned annually on a single night, demonstrating an intraspecific synchronized spawning. The spawning occurred on a full-moon night in July. Cleavage of the embryos can be equal or unequal, resulting in the respective formation of regular blastulae along with bizarre-shaped embryos that subsequently develop into the planulae. The findings indicate that the reproductive features of Sarcophyton soft corals are consistent within the genus, thus supporting the tested hypothesis of the study that among reef soft corals these features are consistent within generic boundaries across all Indo-Pacific regions studied so far.
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We thank The Interuniversity Institute for Marine Sciences (IUI) for assistance and use of facilities. We acknowledge Y. Delaria, and Z. Barkay for SEM work, Y. Brickner for histology work, A. Mandelberg for digital editing and N. Paz for editorial assistance. This research was in part supported by the Israel Cohen Chair in Environmental Zoology to YB. Collection of animals complied with a permit issued by the Israel Nature and National Parks Protection Authority.
Guest editors: Yehuda Benayahu, Oren Levy & Tamar Lotan/Coelenterate Biology: Advanced Studies on Cnidaria and Ctenophora
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Mandelberg-Aharon, Y., Benayahu, Y. Reproductive features of the Red Sea octocoral Sarcophyton auritum Verseveldt & Benayahu, 1978 are uniform within generic boundaries across wide biogeographical regions. Hydrobiologia 759, 119–132 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10750-015-2225-1