Jackson Estuarine Laboratory

Larval dispersal distance as an explanation for adult spatial pattern in two Caribbean reef corals


Larval dispersal distance is a parameter which can account for differences in adult spatial distribution between closely-related marine invertebrates. To examine its importance in relation to Caribbean reef corals, we observed the larval swimming and settlement behavior of two Caribbean coral species; one of which (Favia fragum [Esper]) has a highly aggregated adult distribution, the other of which (Agaricia agaricites [Linnaeus]) is less aggregated. Larvae of the highly aggregated species, when followed in situ by divers, settled rapidly (less than 10 min) and showed little discrimination among different types of substrata. Larvae of the less aggregated species swam longer and showed clear discrimination between types of substrata. Our data suggest a correspondence between larval swimming/settlement behavior and adult distribution. Such a relationship between larval behavior and adult distribution could be important in understanding the linkage between life history and adult spatial patterns in sessile marine invertebrates.

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Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology



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