Branch to colony trajectory in a modular organism: Pattern formation in the indo-pacific coral Stylophora pistillata

Lee Shaish, Avigdor Abelson, Baruch Rinkevich*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


The architecture of the colony in a branching coral is an iterative process in which new layers of calcium carbonate compile atop existing structures that remain unchanged. Colony growth and development, known as astogeny, is believed to be a continuous process, characterized by replication of lower rank unites, polyps, and branches. This study seeks to explore the genetic blueprint of branch-to-colony developmental trajectory in the branching coral Stylophora pistillata, within an astogeny period of 1 year. One hundred small branches (initially 2-4 cm long) were sampled from 10 colonies. A year later, 63 remaining colonies were analyzed for their architectural rules by using 15 morphometric parameters. Multivariate statistical tests were preformed. Cluster and two-dimensional nonmetric Multi-Dimensional Scaling analyses revealed that the 10 genotypes could be divided into two major morphometric groups and two intermediate groups, whereas SIMPER analyses (a similarity percentage test) on within-genet similarities showed high similarity between the ramets developed from each of the 10 genotypes. Although, at first, it seemed that different colonies exhibited variable and different architectural designs (each characterized by specific morphometric parameters), a comprehensive analysis revealed that all 10 coral genotypes exhibited a single common developmental plan that was characterized by a continuum of architectural design with several distinct stages. Each stage is marked by its own characteristic morphometric parameters. Changing of developmental rules during the trajectory from branch to coral colony may help the colony to cope better with environmental constraints.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2111-2121
Number of pages11
JournalDevelopmental Dynamics
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2006


  • Astogeny
  • Development
  • Genetic inheritance
  • Pattern formation
  • Stylophora pistillata


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