Skip to main content

Reproductive effort of an endemic major reef builder along an inshore–offshore gradient in south-western Atlantic

  • Débora O. Pires (a1), Bárbara Segal (a1) and Alice C. Caparelli (a1)

Mussismilia braziliensis is endemic to the south-western Atlantic, where it plays an important role as a major reef builder. It occurs in a wide range of sediment conditions between coastal and offshore environments. Here, we investigated its reproductive effort along an inshore–offshore gradient. Three sites were sampled with varying distances (15 to 60 km) from the mainland in the Abrolhos Reef Complex (18° S). Reproductive effort was estimated as fecundity (number of eggs per: polyp, cm2, mm3, and mesenteries). Mean fecundity per polyp was 338.7 (±73.5 SD) and the highest number of eggs per polyp was 987. Percentages of fertile mesenteries per polyp were similar among sites. However, the fecundity per mesentery varied among colonies and among sites. Fecundity per polyp increased as its area, volume, height and number of fertile mesenteries increases. The area closest to the coast (‘Pedra de Leste’) presented the highest mean fecundity per polyp (410 eggs ± 159.2 SD), cm2 (233.47 eggs ± 219.44 SD), mm3 (4.95 eggs ± 2.34 SD) and mesentery (10.6 eggs ± 4.3 SD). Corals closest to the coast had 55% higher fecundity per polyp and 64% higher fecundity per cm2 than corals offshore. This area presented the highest contribution of non-carbonate sediments deposited on the reefs. Therefore, we suggest that colonies of M. braziliensis may present higher uptake rates of particulate matter at inshore reefs, which allow for higher rates of tissue growth (less nutrient limitation) and energy allocation to reproduction.

Corresponding author
Correspondence should be addressed to: D.O. Pires, Museu Nacional, Departamento de Invertebrados, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Quinta da Boa Vista s/n, São Cristóvão, Rio de Janeiro, RJ 20940-040, Brazil email:
Hide All
Anthony K.R.N. (2006) Enhanced energy status of corals on coastal, high-turbidity reefs. Marine Ecology Progress Series 319, 111116.
Anthony K.R.N. and Fabricius K.E. (2000) Shifting roles of heterotrophy and autotrophy in coral energetics under varying turbidity. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 252, 221253.
Castro C.B. and Pires D.O. (2001) Brazilian coral reefs: what we already know and what is still missing. Bulletin of Marine Science 69, 357371.
Castro B.T. and Pires D.O. (2006) Reproductive biology of Madracis decactis (Lyman, 1859) (Cnidaria, Scleractinia) from Southern Bahia Reefs, Brazil. Arquivos do Museu Nacional 64, 1927.
Dutra L.X.C., Kikuchi R.K.P. and Leão Z.M.A.N. (2006) Effects of sediment accumulation on reef corals from Abrolhos, Bahia, Brazil. Journal of Coastal Research 39, 633638.
Fabricius K.E. (2005) Effects of terrestrial runoff on the ecology of corals and coral reefs: review and synthesis. Marine Pollution Bulletin 50, 125146.
Francini-Filho R.B., Moura R.L., Thompson F.L., Reis R.M., Kaufman L., Kikuchi R.K.P. and Leão Z.M.A.N. (2008) Diseases leading to accelerated decline of reef corals in the largest South Atlantic reef complex (Abrolhos Bank, eastern Brazil). Marine Pollution Bulletin 56, 10081014.
Hall V.R. and Hughes T.P. (1996) Reproductive strategies of modular organisms: comparative studies of reef-building corals. Ecology 77, 950963.
Harrison P.L. and Wallace C.C. (1990) Reproduction, dispersal and recruitment of scleractinian corals. In Dubinsky Z. (ed.) Ecosystems of the world 25: coral reefs. Amsterdam: Elsevier, pp. 133207.
Harrison P.L. and Ward S. (2001) Elevated levels of nitrogen and phosphorus reduce fertilization success of gametes from scleractinian reef corals. Marine Biology 139, 10571068.
Hubbard D.K. (1997) Reefs as dynamic systems. In Birkeland C. (ed.) Life and death of coral reefs. New York: Chapman & Hall, pp. 4367.
Kapela W. and Lasker H.R. (1999) Size-dependent reproduction in the Caribbean gorgonian Pseudoplexaura porosa. Marine Biology 135, 107114.
Leão Z.M.A.N. and Ginsburg R.N. (1997) Living reefs surrounded by siliciclastic sediments: the Abrolhos coastal reefs, Bahia, Brazil. Proceedings of the 8th International Coral Reef Symposium 2, 17671772.
Leão Z.M.A.N., Kikuchi R.K.P. and Testa V. (2003) Corals and coral reefs of Brazil. In Cortés J. (ed.) Latin American coral reefs. Amsterdam: Elsevier, pp. 952.
Leuzinger S., Anthony K.R.N. and Willis B.L. (2003) Reproductive energy investment in corals: scaling with module size. Oecologia 136, 524531.
Lins de Barros M.M., Pires D.O. and Castro C.B. (2003) Sexual reproduction of the Brazilian reef coral Siderastrea stellata Verrill, 1868 (Anthozoa, Scleractinia). Bulletin of Marine Science 73, 713724.
Morales-Tirado J.A. (2006) Sexual reproduction in the Caribbean coral genus Mycetophyllia, in La Parguera, Puerto Rico. MS thesis. University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez, Puerto Rico.
Neves E.G. and Pires D.O. (2002) Sexual reproduction of Brazilian coral Mussismilia hispida (Verrill, 1902). Coral Reefs 21, 161168.
Pires D.O., Castro C.B. and Ratto C.C. (1999) Reef coral reproduction in the Abrolhos Reef Complex, Brazil: the endemic genus Mussismilia. Marine Biology 135, 463471.
Pires D.O., Castro C.B. and Ratto C.C. (2002) Sexual reproduction of the solitary coral Scolymia wellsi (Cnidaria: Scleractinia) from the Abrolhos Reefs, Brazil. Proceedings of the 9th International Coral Reef Symposium 1, 381384.
Pires D.O. and Caparelli A.C. (2002) Biologia reprodutiva de Porites astreoides do Complexo Recifal dos Abrolhos, Brasil. Boletim do Museu Nacional, Nova Serie, Zoologia 484, 116.
Sanders D. and Baron-Szabo R.C. (2005) Scleractinian assemblages under sediment input: their characteristics and relation to the nutrient input concept. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 216, 139181.
Sakai K. (1998) Effect of colony size, polyp size, and budding mode on egg production in a colonial coral. Biological Bulletin. Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole 195, 319325.
Segal-Ramos B. (2003) Corais e comunidades recifais e sua relação com a sedimentação no Banco dos Abrolhos, Brasil. PhD thesis. Museu Nacional, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Segal B., Hevangelista H., Kampel M., Gonçalves A.C., Polito P.S. and Santos E.A. (2008) Potential impacts of polar fronts on sedimentation processes at Abrolhos coral reef (South-West Atlantic Ocean/Brazil). Continental Shelf Research 28, 533544.
Shlesinger Y., Goulet T.L. and Loya Y. (1998) Reproductive patterns of scleractinian corals in the northern Red Sea. Marine Biology 132, 691701.
Siegel S. (1975) Estatística não paramétrica para as ciências do comportamento. São Paulo: McGraw-Hill.
Szmant A.M. (1986) Reproductive ecology of Caribbean reef corals. Coral Reefs 5, 4353.
Underwood A.J. (1997) Experiments in ecology: their logical design and interpretation using analysis of variance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Zar J.H. (1999) Biostatistical analysis. 4th edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom
  • ISSN: 0025-3154
  • EISSN: 1469-7769
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-the-marine-biological-association-of-the-united-kingdom
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 1
Total number of PDF views: 14 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 123 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 18th March 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.