Energy allocation trade-offs as a function of age in fungiid corals

Mila Grinblat, Lee Eyal-Shaham, Gal Eyal, Or Ben-Zvi, Saki Harii, Masaya Morita, Kazuhiko Sakai, Mamiko Hirose, David J. Miller, Yossi Loya*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

To compete effectively, living organisms must adjust the allocation of available energy resources for growth, survival, maintenance, and reproduction throughout their life histories. Energy demands and allocations change throughout the life history of an organism, and understanding their energy allocation strategies requires determination of the relative age of individuals. As most scleractinian corals are colonial, the relationship between age and mass/size is complicated by colony fragmentation, partial mortality, and asexual reproduction. To overcome these limitations, solitary mushroom corals, Herpolitha limax from Okinawa, Japan and Fungia fungites from Okinawa and the Great Barrier Reef (GBR), Australia, were used to investigate how energy allocation between these fundamental processes varies as a function of age. Measurements of the relative growth, biochemical profiles, fecundity of individuals of different sizes, and the settlement success of their progeny have revealed physiological trade-offs between growth and reproduction, with increasing body mass ultimately leading to senescence. The importance of energy allocation for reproduction led us to examine the reproductive strategies and sex allocation in the two studied species. In the present study, the smallest individuals of both species studied were found to invest most of their energy in relative growth, showing higher lipid and carbohydrate content than the later stages. In medium-sized corals, this pattern was overturned in favour of reproduction, manifesting in terms of both the highest fecundity and settlement success of the resulting brooded larvae. Finally, a phase of apparent senescence was observed in the largest individuals, characterized by a decrease in most of the parameters measured. In addition, complex reproductive plasticity has been revealed in F. fungites in the GBR, with individual females releasing eggs, embryos, planulae, or a combination of these. These data provide the most direct estimates currently available for physiological, age-related trade-offs during the life history of a coral. The unusual reproductive characteristics of the GBR F. fungites indicate previously unknown layers of complexity in the reproductive biology of corals and have implications for their adaptive potential across a wide geographical scale.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1113987
JournalFrontiers in Marine Science
Volume10
DOIs
StatePublished - 2023

Keywords

  • Fungia fungites
  • Herpolitha limax
  • biochemical profiles
  • fecundity
  • reproductive allocation
  • senescence
  • sex-allocation

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