Sex and symbionts New discoveries in local and regional patterns of coral ecology and reproduction

Detta är en avhandling från Stockholm : Department of Systems Ecology, Stockholm University

Sammanfattning: Coral reefs belong to the most diverse and the most threatened ecosystems on earth. Anthropogenic stressors and climate change have led to mortalities at levels unprecedented in modern times. The aims of this thesis are to investigate aspects of the corals’ ability to reproduce, disperse, adapt and survive. Papers I-III study reproduction in a common soft coral species, Sarcophyton elegans, with previously unknown reproductive modes. Paper IV investigates genetic distribution of coral-symbiont associations in Galaxea fascicularis focusing on adaptation to the environment along the coastline of Vietnam.Sarcophyton  elegans is a gonochoric broadcast spawner with a 1:1 sex ratio. Reproduction is strictly size dependent. Oogenesis takes 19-24 months, with a new cycle commencing every year. Spermatogenesis takes 10-12 months. The majority of gametes were released during the annual austral mass spawning event after full moon in November, but spawning also occur between August and February. The polyps at the outer edge of the colonies released their gametes first, followed by polyps situated closer to the center during subsequent months. Colonies upstream in the prevailing current spawn earlier than those downstream. The colonies were arranged in clusters of alternating males and females, which spawned simultaneously and were of the same genotype. Fission and buddying is a common mode to expand locally. Additionally, females undergoing fission divided into the most fecund size classes.The G. fascicularis and their associated symbionts were not genetically coupled to each other but to environmental factors. The host displayed an inshore-offshore zonation, with higher diversity offshore. The D1a symbiont exhibited an inshore- offshore zonation. In contrast; the 5 different C symbiont types showed a latitudinal distribution gradient, which shifted in dominance north to south. The study highlights the importance of protecting resilient coral and algal genotypes in stressed areas and the need to understand reproductive modes for coral conservation.