Sexual reproductive cycle of the epibiotic soft coral Alcyonium coralloides (Octocorallia, Alcyonacea)

Elena Quintanilla, Josep Maria Gili, Pablo J. López-González, Georgios Tsounis, Teresa Madurell, Ida Fiorillo, Sergio Rossi

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11 Citations (Scopus)


Alcyonium coralloides is an epibiotic soft coral overgrowing living colonies of Mediterranean gorgonians. The main features of the sexual reproductive cycle of this soft coral species are described and quantified for the first time, in a population found at 18 to 22 m depth off the Medes Islands (NW Mediterranean). A. coralloides is a gonochoric internal brooder. The sexual cycle showed a single reproductive event per year. Gametogenesis took 5 to 6 mo, which is the shortest known gametogenesis in littoral octocorals (especially for oogenesis). The maximum mean ± SD diameter was 365 ± 86 μm for spermatic cysts and 632 ± 125 μm for mature oocytes. Sperm was released in spring (late May). Average male and female fecundity in this last phase of the cycle was 15 ± 9 spermatic cysts and 7 ± 4 oocytes per polyp, respectively. Larvae of about 1000 μm in length were observed in the gastrovascular cavities of female colonies in May, before they were released in June. We suggest that the remarkable short gametogenesis and timing shown by A. coralloides is an adaptation to optimize the colonization of its host (in this case the gorgonian octocoral Paramuricea clavata). We conclude that A. coralloides larvae could be ready to settle in early summer when the host P. clavata is probably more vulnerable as a result of its own reproductive cycle coming to an end. © Inter-Research 2013.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-124
JournalAquatic Biology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 3 Apr 2013


  • Alcyonium coralloides
  • Epibiosis
  • Gametogenesis
  • Paramuricea clavata
  • Reproductive coupling
  • Reproductive effort
  • Soft corals


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