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Monthly skeletal extension rates of the hermatypic corals Montastraea annularis and Montastraea faveolata: biological and environmental controls
Cruz-Pinon, G.; Carricart-Ganivet, J.P.; Espinoza-Avalos, J. (2003). Monthly skeletal extension rates of the hermatypic corals Montastraea annularis and Montastraea faveolata: biological and environmental controls. Mar. Biol. (Berl.) 143(3): 491-500. http://hdl.handle.net/10.1007/s00227-003-1127-3
In: Marine Biology. Springer: Heidelberg; Berlin. ISSN 0025-3162, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Keyword
    Marine

Authors  Top 
  • Cruz-Pinon, G.
  • Carricart-Ganivet, J.P.
  • Espinoza-Avalos, J.

Abstract
    Monthly skeletal extension rates were measured in colonies of Montastraea annularis and M. faveolata growing at Mahahual and Chinchorro Bank, in the Mexican Caribbean. Temperature, light extinction coefficient (k d), sedimentation rate, dissolved nutrients and wave energy were used as indicators of environmental conditions for coral growth. Zooxanthella density and mitotic index, nitrogen, phosphorous and protein in coral tissue, and living tissue thickness were measured during periods of high-density-band (HDB) and low-density-band (LDB) formation. To test their value as indirect measures of competition between zooxanthellae and host, as well as coral health and performance in both species, these biological parameters were also measured, during the HDB-formation period, in corals collected at La Blanquilla. This reef is located in the Gulf of Mexico, in an area of suboptimal environmental conditions for coral growth. M. faveolata had a significantly higher skeletal extension rate than M. annularis. Corals growing in Mahahual had significantly higher skeletal extension rate than those living in Chinchorro Bank. This is consistent with inshore–offshore gradients in growth rates observed by other authors in the same and other coral species. This is probably due to less favorable environmental conditions for coral growth in near shore Mahahual, where there is high hydraulic energy and high sedimentation rate. Contrary to observations of other authors, skeletal extension rate did not differ significantly between HDB- and LDB-formation periods for both species of Montastraea. Both species produced their HDB between July and September, when the seawater temperatures are seasonally higher in the Mexican Caribbean. Tissue thickness indicated that environmental conditions are more favorable for coral health and performance during the HDB-formation period. Mitotic index data support the idea that zooxanthellae have competitive advantages for carbon over the host during the LDB-formation period. So, corals, during the LDB-formation period, with less favorable environmental conditions for coral performance and at a disadvantage for carbon with zooxanthellae, add new skeleton with little or no opportunity for thickening the existing one. This results in an equally extended skeleton with lower density, and the stretching response of skeletal growth, proposed for M. annularis growing under harsher environmental conditions, also occurs during the LDB-formation period.

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