Marine & Environmental Sciences Faculty Articles


Reef Coral Reproduction in the Eastern Pacific: Costa Rica, Panamá, and Galápagos Islands (Ecuador). II. Poritidae

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Marine Biology







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A comparative study of the reproductive ecology of the zooxanthellate, scleractinian corals Porites lobata Dana and P. panamensis Verrill was conducted from 1985 to 1991 in eastern Pacific reef environments that were severly impacted by the 1982–1983 El Niño warming events. P. lobata, a presumed broadcast spawner of large colony size, is widely distributed in the equatorial eastern Pacific, whereas P. panamensis, a brooder of small colony size, is abundant only on some reefs in Panamá. Both species were gonochoric with nearly 1:1 sex ratios in large study populations except for P. lobata at Caño Island that had 14% hermaphroditic colonies. Mature, unfertilized oocytes contained numerous zooxanthellae in both Porites species, and all planula developmental stages contained zooxanthellae in P. panamensis. Year-round sampling revealed high proportions of colonies with gonads, ranging from 30 to 68% in P. lobata and from 60 to 68% in P. panamensis. No clear relationship between numbers of reproductive colonies and the thermal stability of the habitat was evident in P. lobata: percent colonies with gonads at non-upwelling sites was 48 to 68% at Caño Island (Costa Rica) and Uva Island (Panamá), and at upwelling sites 30 to 50% at Saboga Island and Taboga Island (Panamá), and the Galápagos Islands (Ecuador). Similarly, 90% of all P. panamensis colonies were reproductive at Uva Island (a non-upwelling site), and 86% were reproductive at Taboga Island (an upwelling site). Upwelling at Taboga Island is seasonal, nevertheless P. panamensis produced mature gonads or planulae over most of the year (11 mo), whereas P. lobata exhibited reproductive activity during only 2 mo (May and June). No clear lunar periodicity was observed in P. panamensis (Taboga Island), but a high proportion of P. lobatashowed increased gonadal development around full and new moon, especially at Caño and Uva Islands. Estimated fecundities were relatively high for P. lobata at Caño (4000 eggs cm-2 yr-1) and Uva (5200 eggs cm-2 yr-1) Islands, and notably low (70 to 110 eggs cm-2 yr-1) in the Galápagos Islands. P. panamensis mean fecundity at Taboga Island was 720 planulae cm-2 yr-1 or 4.0 mm3 cm-2 yr-1, which was lower than the egg volume production of P. lobata at Caño and Uva Islands (7.0 to 10.0 mm3 cm-2 yr-1). The capacity of P. lobata and P. panamensis to reproduce sexually supports the notion that eastern Pacific coral reef recovery may not be dependent on long-distance dispersal from central Pacific areas. However, sexual recruits of P. lobata are absent or uncommon at all eastern Pacific study sites while recruits of P. panamensis were common to abundant only at the Uva Island study site. Asexual fragmentation in P. lobata augments recruitment locally, but plays no role in P. panamensis recruitment.


©Springer-Verlag 1994

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NSF grant #s: OCE-8415615, OCE-8716726, OCE-9018392



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