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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 313:115-123 (2006)  -  doi:10.3354/meps313115

Long-term effects of competition on coral growth and sweeper tentacle development

Einat D. Lapid1, Nanette E. Chadwick1,2,*

1Faculty of Life Sciences, Bar Ilan University, Ramat Gan, Israel, and Interuniversity Institute for Marine Science, Eilat, Israel
2Department of Biological Sciences, 101 Rouse Life Sciences Building, Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama 36849, USA
*Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: Outcomes of competition between corals vary temporally and spatially, and depend in part on the agonistic mechanism involved. Competition may impact coral growth, reproduction and energy reserves, however few experimental studies have quantified these effects. We conducted a 1 yr laboratory experiment on competition between 2 massive corals, Platygyra daedalea and Favites complanata. Colonies of P. daedalea developed sweeper tentacles and extensively damaged the F. complanata colonies, causing them to loose ca. 55% of their soft tissue and eventually killing 30% of F. complanata colonies. Skeletal accretion rate varied widely among corals within each treatment, and correlated negatively with the percent tissue damaged on competing colonies of F. complanata. On isolated control colonies, sweeper tentacles developed randomly throughout the year, and then reverted back to feeding tentacles. They appeared to serve as probes to detect the approach of competitors. Development of sweeper tentacles is a powerful aggressive/defensive mechanism that may enable brain corals to dominate some reef areas in the Indo-Pacific region.

KEY WORDS: Brain coral · Platygyra · Favites · Red Sea · Eilat · Aggression

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