Reproductive Biology of the Black Coral Antipathella wollastoni in the Azores Archipelago

Antipathella wollastoni is an antipatharian species endemic to the Macaronesia. Despite its importance as an ecosystem engineer, there is no information about its basic biology and ecology. The aim of the current study is to describe its reproductive strategy, gametogenic cycle and reproductive timing. Sampling was performed monthly on six tagged colonies for a year and specimens were histologically processed. A. wollastoni was found to be a gonochoric broadcast spawner. Gametogenesis took place within the primary transversal mesentery, and followed an annual cycle. The reproductive season coincided with high seawater temperature but spawning, inferred from the disappearance of gametes, likely happened after the seawater temperature peak of the year (September 2009). Polyp fecundity ranged from 1 to 309 oocytes /polyp and oocyte area from 0.0048 to 0.0117 mm2. A decrease in polyp fecundity was detected in samples at the higher pre-spawning maturity stage, indicating possible repetitive spawning or oocyte absorption. Intracolonial comparisons revealed a longer duration of the reproductive cycle in the middle colony section, possibly due to intracolonial differences in energy allocation between reproduction and other activities, or as a strategy against predation on reproductive products.

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0511 - Biology