MEPS 296:291-309 (2005)  -  doi:10.3354/meps296291

Perspectives on mucus secretion in reef corals

B. E. Brown*, J. C. Bythell

School of Biology, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 7RU, UK

ABSTRACT: The coral surface mucus layer provides a vital interface between the coral epithelium and the seawater environment and mucus acts in defence against a wide range of environmental stresses, in ciliary-mucus feeding and in sediment cleansing, amongst other roles. However, we know surprisingly little about the in situ physical and chemical properties of the layer, or its dynamics of formation. We review the nature of coral mucus and its derivation and outline the wide array of roles that are proposed for mucus secretion in corals. Finally, we review models of the surface mucus layer formation. We argue that at any one time, different types of mucus secretions may be produced at different sites within the coral colony and that mucus layers secreted by the coral may not be single homogeneous layers but consist of separate layers with different properties. This requires a much more dynamic view of mucus than has been considered before and has important implications, not least for bacterial colonisation. Understanding the formation and dynamics of the surface mucus layer under different environmental conditions is critical to understanding a wide range of associated ecological processes.

KEY WORDS: Mucin · Mucopolysaccharide · Coral surface microlayer · CSM · Surface mucopolysaccharide layer · SML

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