Sexual reproduction and early life-history traits of the Mediterranean soft coral Alcyonium acaule

Núria Teixidó*, Nathaniel Bensoussan, Andrea Gori, Ida Fiorillo, Núria Viladrich

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Understanding processes that contribute to a better comprehension of the population dynamics of long-lived species is critical for the maintenance and potential recovery of such species. Despite the abundance of soft corals in Mediterranean rocky reefs, little information exists on their life histories and reproductive patterns. In this study, we assessed the main reproductive characteristics and early life-history traits of the long-lived soft coral Alcyonium acaule. The sex ratio was 1:1; the smallest fertile colonies were one finger in size (2.1 ± 0.6 cm in height), and both colony and polyp fertility increased with colony size. Likewise, the number of eggs and spermary sacs per polyp increased significantly with colony size, whereas the diameter of the female and male sexual products did not. Over 6 years of observations (2007-2012), spawning occurred primarily in July, after the seawater reached 20 °C, in a single spawning episode per year. Approximately 80% of female colonies released eggs, which were retained on the surface of the mother colony by mucous strings for up to a few days. High fertilization rates were observed during spawning in 2008 and 2009 (94.9% and 87.0%, respectively). The timing of development was ~24 h for the blastulae, ~48-72 h for the planulae and 8-22 days for metamorphosis into primary polyps. Survivorship of planulae was relatively high (~50% at 45 days after release), but only 24% of larvae metamorphosed into primary polyps, and their survivorship was moderate after 2 months (65% in 2008 and 74% in 2009). Asexual reproduction was negligible, indicating that sexual reproduction is the main mechanism supporting the maintenance and recovery of populations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)134-144
Number of pages11
JournalMarine Ecology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2016


  • Alcyonium acaule
  • Larvae
  • Long-lived species
  • Mediterranean Sea
  • Reproduction
  • Soft corals


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