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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 445:209-218 (2012)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps09460

Trans-Atlantic rafting by the brooding reef coral Favia fragum on man-made flotsam

Bert W. Hoeksema1,* Piet J. Roos2,4 Gerhard C. Cadée3

Department of Marine Zoology, Netherlands Centre for Biodiversity Naturalis, PO Box 9517, 2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands
2Netherlands Centre for Biodiversity Naturalis (Section ZMA), University of Amsterdam, PO Box 94766, 1090 GT Amsterdam, The Netherlands
3Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, PO Box 59, 1790 AB Den Burg, Texel, The Netherlands
4Present address: Rembrandt van Rijnweg 8, 1191 GG Ouderkerk aan de Amstel, The Netherlands

ABSTRACT: Specimens of the brooding reef coral Favia fragum were found on man-made flotsam stranded on the North Sea shore of the Netherlands. Based on the associated epifauna originating from the southeast USA, we estimate that the corals must have crossed the Atlantic Ocean, transported by the Gulf Stream and the North Atlantic Drift. The size of the corals suggests that they might have had enough time to cross the Atlantic alive and that they already reached the age of possible self-fertilization before they entered waters that were too cold to survive. The temperature requirements and the presently known geographic range of F. fragum are compared with Atlantic summer and winter isotherms and oceanic currents in order to project a hypothetical northernmost range boundary. With increasing pollution, man-made flotsam may become a progressively more common substrate for reef corals that depend on rafting for long-distance dispersal. Eventually, with warming seawater, floating debris may cause tropical marine species to expand their distribution ranges towards higher latitudes.

KEY WORDS: Distribution range · Epifauna · Life history · Long-distance dispersal · Ocean currents · Temperature tolerance

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Cite this article as: Hoeksema BW, Roos PJ, Cadée GC (2012) Trans-Atlantic rafting by the brooding reef coral Favia fragum on man-made flotsam. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 445:209-218. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps09460

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