Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology
For many marine invertebrates, the maximum size of an individual is influenced heavily by environmental factors and may be limited by energetic constraints. In this study, an energetic model developed originally for anemones was applied to the free-living scleractinian Fungia concinna (Verrill) from Moorea (French Polynesia) to test the hypothesis that energetic constraints limit the size of this solitary coral. The modified model assumed that photosynthesis was the primary source of metabolic energy, and that metabolic costs were represented by aerobic respiration; these sources and sinks of energy were compared using daily energy budgets that were analyzed using double logarithmic regressions of energy against coral Size. With this approach, energy limitation is characterized by a scaling exponent for energetic cost (b(cost)) that is larger than the scaling exponent for energy intake (b(intake)). For the size range of F concinna studied, b(intake) =0.73 +/- 0.09 and b(cost)=0.46 +/- 0.10, thereby demonstrating that large individuals accumulated an energetic surplus, even when the expenditure associated with host tissue and symbiont growth was included in the model. The surplus of energy that this coral acquires as it grows appears to be driven by the scaling of traits associated functionally with the scaling of respiration and photosynthesis. Specifically, tissue biomass displayed a strong positive allometry with respect to surface area (i.e., b> 1), and this constraint on surface area may be the mechanistic basis of the low scaling exponent for metabolic cost. In contrast, the capacity for autotrophy - defined indirectly as Symbiodinium population density and chlorophyll content increased isometrically with surface area, and likely contributed to the higher scaling exponent for intake relative to cost. Our results suggest that growth in F coneinna is not limited strictly by energy, but instead maximum size must be determined by alternative physiological or ecological constraints. (C) 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.