Marine & Environmental Sciences Faculty Articles

Benthic ctenophore (Order Platyctenida) reproduction, recruitment, and seasonality in south Florida


0000-0003-1330-1278; 0000-0002-6003-9324



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Invertebrate Biology



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Asexual fragmentation, Coeloplana, Cydippid spawning, Ovoviviparity, Vallicula


Reproductive structures, modes, and seasonal patterns of size–class abundances are examined in two benthic platyctene (Family Coeloplanidae) ctenophore species present in dissimilar shallow marine environments in subtropical southeast Florida. Coeloplana waltoni, a minute (1–3 mm body length) epizoic associate of octocorals, occurs in exposed environments often under turbulent conditions, and Vallicula multiformis (2–10 mm) commonly occurs epiphytically on macroalgae in protected, calm‐water environments. Reproductive activity in C. waltoni is most active during the warm‐water summer season (June–October); gonadal development in V. multiformis occurs year‐round, and is most pronounced during sea‐warming periods in late spring (May) and late summer to early autumn (August–October), with release of cydippid larvae. Both species are hermaphroditic brooders, exhibiting paedogenesis (early gonadal development) at body lengths approximately one‐third (Coeloplana) to one‐sixth (Vallicula) of maximum adult size. Juvenile individuals (<0.6 mm) increased in abundance in C. waltoni during the summer reproductive period, and large (≥1 mm) pink‐colored individuals comprised 50% or more of samples from July through September. Seasonal abundance of gravid individuals and the timing of cydippid larval release in V. multiformis did not correspond closely with juvenile or adult population densities. Asexual fragmentation occurred in both ctenophore species, but was observed more frequently in individuals of V. multiformis. This asexual mode of reproduction probably accounted in part for the discordance between ctenophore abundances and larval recruitment events by sexual means. Morphological structures and behaviors associated with reproduction are described in this study. Uncommon images of reproductive products (gametes, embryos, larvae), spawning events, brooding, and asexual fragmentation are included, some for the first time in the published literature.



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