Phenology of sexual reproduction in the common coral reef sponge, Carteriospongia foliascens

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Abdul Wahab, MA, de Nys, R, Webster, N & Whalan, S 2014, 'Phenology of sexual reproduction in the common coral reef sponge, Carteriospongia foliascens', Coral Reefs, vol. 33, no. 2, pp. 381-394.

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Understanding processes that contribute to population maintenance is critical to the management and conservation of species. Despite this, very little is currently known about the reproductive biology of Great Barrier Reef (GBR) sponge species. Here, we established reproductive parameters including mode of sexuality and development, seasonality, sex ratios, gametogenesis, reproductive output, and size at sexual maturity for the common phototrophic intertidal sponge, Carteriospongia foliascens, in the central GBR over two reproductive cycles. A population sexual productivity index (PoSPi) integrating key reproductive parameters was formulated to compare population larval supply over time. This study shows that C. foliascens is reproductive all year round, gonochoric and viviparous, with larvae developing asynchronously throughout the mesohyl. The influence of environmental parameters relevant to C. foliascens reproduction [i.e., sea surface temperature (SST), photoperiod, and rainfall] was also examined, and SST was found to have the most significant effect on phenology. C. foliascens reproduction exhibited annual mono-cyclic patterns closely resembling SST fluctuations. Reproductive output was depressed at low SST (<23 °C) and increased at temperatures above 23 °C. Peak sperm release occurred at temperatures above 25 °C, while peak larval release occurred during the annual temperature maxima (>28 °C). A twofold increase in maximum larval production (PoSPi) in C. foliascens was observed in the second reproductive cycle, following a depressed PoSPi in the first cycle. This reduction in PoSPi in the first reproductive cycle was associated with elevated SST and rainfall, coinciding with one of the strongest La Niña events on record.

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