Damage to Coral Tissue Affects Reproduction

Written by on December 19, 2012 in Marine Life
Female Antillogorgia elisabethae.

Female Antillogorgia elisabethae with newly released eggs and developing planulae larvae. Photo credit: Howard Lasker.

A new study shows that coral colonies that have suffered tissue damage are very slow to fully recover their reproductive abilities.

Scientists from the University at Buffalo (UB) found that previously damaged coral colonies (Antillogorgia elisabethae) in the Bahamas were still producing low numbers of eggs four years later.

“The really interesting finding was that four years later, these colonies were still displaying an effect,” said Dr. Howard Lasker, a geology professor at UB who led the study. He noted that the slow recovery was a surprise. “They don’t necessarily look damaged anymore, but it takes some time to get back to where they were in terms of reproduction.”

This research has broader repercussions,” Lasker continued. “When you start talking about damage to reefs from events like hurricanes, you might say that the coral survived, that it lost some tissue, but it’s still reproducing. That’s true, but we now know the corals are not quite as healthy as we thought.”

Lasker explained that the research supports the idea that damaged corals have lower fecundity because they divert most of their energy and resources away from reproduction and towards growth and injury repair. The study notes that “the mechanism controlling resource allocation is unknown.”

Additional research will be needed to determine any long-term impacts the changes in fecundity will have on population growth.

To learn more:

Colony of Antillogorgia elisabethae in The Bahamas.

Colony of Antillogorgia elisabethae in The Bahamas. Photo credit: Howard Lasker.

Copyright © 2012 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of MarineScienceToday.com. She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .

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