Asexual Propagation In The Coral Reef Macroalga Halimeda (Chlorophyta, Bryopsidales): Production, Dispersal And Attachment Of Small Fragments


Asexual reproduction; Halimeda goreaui; Halimeda opuntia; Halimeda tuna; Herbivory; Vegetative fragmentation


Siphonous, green macroalgae of the genus Halimeda are ubiquitous and ecologically important in tropical and subtropical marine environments. It has been hypothesized that the abundance of Halimeda on coral reefs is in part due to the ability of this genus to propagate asexually via vegetative fragmentation. However, vegetative fragmentation has only been documented for H. discoidea in a laboratory setting. To test the hypothesis that vegetative fragmentation contributes to field populations of Halimeda, we examined three aspects of fragmentation by H. tuna (Ellis and Solander) Lamouroux, H. opuntia (Linneaus) Lamouroux and H. goreaui Taylor on Conch Reef in the Florida Keys: (1) short-term (8 days) and long-term (14 weeks) fragment survival and rhizoid production in the laboratory and field (7 and 21 m), (2) size of the fragment pool and (3) influences of herbivory and water motion on production and dispersal of fragments. Although morphologically similar to H. discoidea, only a small percentage of H. tuna fragments survived. Fragments of H. opuntia and H. goreaui were more robust, and survival and rhizoid production were positively correlated with size in short-term trials. In 14-week field trials, one-third or fewer fragments of any species survived at 7 m, potentially because fragments were covered by large amounts of sediment. Survivors included some buried, seemingly dead individuals that turned green when exposed to light, highlighting the remarkable ability of this genus to survive disturbances. There was much less sediment accumulation at 21 m, where more fragments survived. Most (93%) eight-segment fragments of H. opuntia produced attachment rhizoids by the end of the 14-week trial. Overall, a range of 4.7-9.4 fragments of Halimeda m-2 day-1 were found on Conch Reef; most fragments were generated by H. goreaui. Fish bite marks were evident on 75-85% of the individuals of H. tuna and the number of bites per thallus ranged from 1 to 23. Herbivorous reef fish commonly fed on all three species of Halimeda. Some fish consumed the biomass, while others rejected most bites. For example, 83% of bites were rejected by the blue-striped grunt. Dispersal distances for rejected bites ranged from 0 to 31 m. Water motion was also responsible for fragment dispersal; experimentally produced fragments moved up to 48 cm day-1. Results presented here suggest that asexual propagation of fragments of Halimeda is an important component of the life-history of this genus and vegetative fragmentation contributes to the abundance of this genus on coral reefs. © 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.

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Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology





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0037120742 (Scopus)

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