Determinate Growth and Modularity in a Gorgonian Octocoral

  • Lasker H
  • Boller M
  • Castanaro J
 et al. 
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Growth rates of branches of colonies of the gorgonian Pseudopterogorgia elisabethae were monitored for 2 years on a reef at San Salvador Island, Bahamas. Images of 261 colonies were made at 6-month intervals and colony and branch growth analyzed. Branch growth rates differed between colonies and between the time intervals in which the measurements were made. Colonies developed a plumelike morphology through a pattern of branch origination and determinate growth in which branch growth rates were greatest at the time the branch originated and branches seldom grew beyond a length of 8 cm. A small number of branches had greater growth rates, did not stop growing, and were sites for the origination of subsequent "generations" of branches. The rate of branch origination decreased with each generation of branching, and branch growth rates were lower on larger colonies, leading to determinate colony growth. Although colonial invertebrates like P. elisabethae grow through the addition of polyps, branches behave as modules with determinate growth. Colony form and size is generated by the iterative addition of branches.

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  • Howard R. Lasker

  • Michael L. Boller

  • John Castanaro

  • Juan Armando Sánchez

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