Effect of short-term subaerial exposure on the cauliflower coral, Pocillopora damicornis, during a simulated extreme low-tide event

Ana Lucia Castrillón-Cifuentes, Diego Lozano-Cortés, Fernando A. Zapata

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations

Abstract

There is increased interest in understanding how stress reduces coral resistance to disturbances and how acclimatization increases the ability of corals to resist future stress. Most extreme low tides at Gorgona Island, which expose reef flats to air, do not appear to negatively affect corals because corals usually do not undergo lethal bleaching during such events. However, coral physiology and fitness may be impacted by this phenomenon. The aim of this study was to evaluate whether corals exposed to air have modified biological functions to resist bleaching. To test this, an extreme low-tide event was simulated in the field. Colonies of Pocillopora damicornis were exposed to air for 15 or 40 min over the course of one, two, or three consecutive days. This procedure was repeated for one to three months. Colonies of P. damicornis exposed to air had reduced fecundity, decreased zooxanthellae density, and changed color from darker to lighter. However, the growth rate of exposed corals was similar to that of non-exposed colonies. We conclude that short periods of subaerial exposure during extreme low tides are not lethal to P. damicornis, but negatively affect sexual reproduction, which might have deleterious effects at the population level. The periodic occurrence of extreme low tides in the tropical eastern Pacific may be one factor responsible for the high rate of asexual reproduction (e.g., fragmentation) in pocilloporid corals of this region.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)401-414
Number of pages14
JournalCoral Reefs
Volume36
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 6 2017

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