Larval longevity and competency patterns of Caribbean reef-building corals
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Larval longevity and competency patterns of Caribbean reef-building corals
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    PeerJ, 8
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    The potential for long-distance larval dispersal depends on the longevity of planktonic, free-swimming larvae and their capacity to successfully recruit to reef habitat. We present multi-year laboratory observations of the persistence of planular larvae and settlement competency over time for cohorts derived from the same parental populations of the most important Caribbean reef building coral species, Orbicella faveolata and Acropora spp. Despite variability among years/cohorts, larvae of both species display capacity for extended longevity (up to 83 d) and competency (demonstrated at up to 48 d). Both species also displayed significantly reduced survivorship and lower realized settlement under elevated temperatures. Although the observed levels of settlement in 24 h competency assays was extremely variable, the timing of onset of competence were highly consistent among years/cohorts but distinct between species. Orbicella faveolata displayed onset of competence during day 3–5 or 4–7 (with or without exposure to positive settlement cue) after spawning; whereas, onset for Acropora spp. was day 7–8 or day 10–11 (with or without cue, respectively). This longer pre-competency period for Acropora spp. nonetheless corresponded to a greater persistence of A. palmata larvae to this age of competence (71–83% of initial cohort compared to 54–55% for O. faveolata). Such life history variation implies meaningful differences in likely dispersal potential between these imperiled reef-building species.
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