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Aquatic Biology

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AB 18:113-124 (2013)  -  DOI:

Sexual reproductive cycle of the epibiotic soft coral Alcyonium coralloides (Octocorallia, Alcyonacea)

Elena Quintanilla1,*, Josep-Maria Gili1, Pablo J. López-González2, Georgios Tsounis1,4, Teresa Madurell1, Ida Fiorillo1, Sergio Rossi

1Institut de Ci?ncies del Mar, ICM-CMIMA (CSIC), 08003 Barcelona, Spain
2Departamento de Zoolog?a, Facultad de Biolog?a, Universidad de Sevilla, 41012 Sevilla, Spain
3Institut de Ci?ncia i Tecnologia Ambientals, Universitat Aut?noma de Barcelona, 08193 Cerdanyola del Vall?s, Spain
4Present address: Department of Ecology, Leibniz Center for Tropical Marine Ecology, 28359 Bremen, Germany

ABSTRACT: Alcyonium coralloides is an epibiotic soft coral overgrowing living colonies of Mediterranean gorgonians. The main features of the sexual reproductive cycle of this soft coral species are described and quantified for the first time, in a population found at 18 to 22 m depth off the Medes Islands (NW Mediterranean). A. coralloides is a gonochoric internal brooder. The sexual cycle showed a single reproductive event per year. Gametogenesis took 5 to 6 mo, which is the shortest known gametogenesis in littoral octocorals (especially for oogenesis). The maximum mean ± SD diameter was 365 ± 86 µm for spermatic cysts and 632 ± 125 µm for mature oocytes. Sperm was released in spring (late May). Average male and female fecundity in this last phase of the cycle was 15 ± 9 spermatic cysts and 7 ± 4 oocytes per polyp, respectively. Larvae of about 1000 µm in length were observed in the gastrovascular cavities of female colonies in May, before they were released in June. We suggest that the remarkable short gametogenesis and timing shown by A. coralloides is an adaptation to optimize the colonization of its host (in this case the gorgonian octocoral Paramuricea clavata). We conclude that A. coralloides larvae could be ready to settle in early summer when the host P. clavata is probably more vulnerable as a result of its own reproductive cycle coming to an end.

KEY WORDS: Alcyonium coralloides . Paramuricea clavata · Epibiosis · Reproductive effort · Soft corals · Reproductive coupling · Gametogenesis

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Cite this article as: Quintanilla E, Gili JM, L?pez-Gonz?lez PJ, Tsounis G, Madurell T, Fiorillo I, Rossi S (2013) Sexual reproductive cycle of the epibiotic soft coral Alcyonium coralloides (Octocorallia, Alcyonacea). Aquat Biol 18:113-124.

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