Herbivory in Asymbiotic Soft Corals

Science  07 Apr 1995:
Vol. 268, Issue 5207, pp. 90-92
DOI: 10.1126/science.268.5207.90


A zooxanthellae-free soft coral from the Red Sea feeds almost exclusively on phytoplankton, a mode of nutrition so far unknown for corals. Herbivory was also found in three other azooxanthellate soft corals. In tropical oligotrophic waters, phytoplankton biomass density may be an order of magnitude higher than that of zooplankton. Use of this resource allows these azooxanthellate cnidarians to be highly productive in flow-exposed oligotrophic reef waters.