Formation and structural organization of the egg-sperm bundle of the scleractinian coral Montipora capitata.
The majority of scleractinian corals are hermaphrodites that broadcast spawn their gametes separately or packaged as egg–sperm bundles during spawning events that are timed to the lunar cycle. The egg–sperm bundle is an efficient way of transporting gametes to the ocean surface where fertilization takes place, while minimizing sperm dilution and maximizing the opportunity for gamete encounters during a spawning event. To date, there are few studies that focus on the formation and structure of egg–sperm bundle. This study explores formation, ultrastructure, and longevity of the egg–sperm bundle in Montipora capitata, a major reef building coral in Hawai‘i. Our results show that the egg–sperm bundle is formed by a mucus layer secreted by the oocytes. The sperm package is located at the center of each bundle, possibly reflecting the development of male and female gametes in different mesenteries. Once the egg–sperm bundle has reached the ocean surface, it breaks open within 10–35 min, depending on the environmental conditions (i.e., wind, water turbulence). Although the bundle has an ephemeral life span, the formation of an egg–sperm bundle is a fundamental part of the reproductive process that could be strongly influenced by climate change and deterioration of water quality (due to anthropogenic effects) and thus requires further investigation.