Evolutionary ecology of colonial reef‐organisms, with particular reference to corals

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Sedentary reef-organisms such as sponges, colonial coelenterates, bryozoans and compound ascidians produce repeated modules (aquiferous systems, polyps, zooids) as they grow. Modular construction alleviates constrains on biomass imposed by mechanical and energetic factors that are functions of the surface area to volume ratio. Colonies thus may grow large whilst preserving optimal modular dimensions. In spite of their ability to propagate asexually, most benthic colonial animals also reproduce sexually. The setective advantages of the genetic diversity among sexually produced offspring seem not to be linked with dispersal, but probably lie in the biological interactions with competitors, predators and pathogens in the parental habitat. Competitive interactions among sedentary organisms on coral reefs are unlikely to be linear or deterministic, and so the co-existence of diverse species is possible.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Reef organisms
  • asexual reproduction
  • corals

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  • R. N. HUGHES

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