Coming of age: Annual onset of coral reproduction is determined by age rather than size

Hanna Rapuano*, Tom Shlesinger*, Lachan Roth, Omri Bronstein, Yossi Loya

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations

Abstract

Constraints on organisms possessing a unitary body plan appear almost absent from colonial organisms. Like unitary organisms, however, coral colonies seemingly delay reproduction until reaching a critical size. Elucidating ontogenetic processes, such as puberty and aging are complicated by corals' modular design, where partial mortality and fragmentation lead to distortions in colony size-age relationships. We explored these enigmatic relations and their influence on reproduction by fragmenting sexually mature colonies of five coral species into sizes below the known size at first reproduction, nurturing them for prolonged periods, and examining their reproductive capacity and trade-offs between growth rates and reproductive investment. Most fragments were reproductive regardless of their size, and growth rates hardly affected reproduction. Our findings suggest that once the ontogenetic milestone of puberty is reached, corals retain reproductive capacity irrespective of colony size, highlighting the key role that aging may have in colonial animals, which are commonly considered non-aging.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106533
JournaliScience
Volume26
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - 19 May 2023

Funding

FundersFunder number
Israel Science Foundation ISF-NRF
Israeli Taxonomy Initiative
PADI
PADI Foundation
Rieger Foundation
Interuniversity Institute for Marine Sciences in Eilat
National Research Foundation Singapore2654/17
Tel Aviv University

    Keywords

    • Ecology
    • Marine organism

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