Brevia

Turbulence, Cleavage, and the Naked Embryo: A Case for Coral Clones

Science  02 Mar 2012:
Vol. 335, Issue 6072, pp. 1064
DOI: 10.1126/science.1216055

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Abstract

After mass spawning events, coral embryos, lacking the protective capsule of other metazoans, are directly exposed to the environment at the ocean surface. Here, we present evidence that modest turbulence disrupts the integrity of these embryos, which fragment into totipotent cells that develop into proportionately smaller functional larvae. The level of turbulence required to fragment coral embryos can be generated from small wind-generated waves, which occur frequently during coral spawning on the Great Barrier Reef. The formation of planktonic coral clones, through natural embryo fragmentation of broadcast spawn, is a previously unknown mode of reproduction in the animal kingdom.

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