Journal of Phycology
Turbinaria ornata (Turner) J. Agardh is a tropical alga that disperses by detached, reproductively mature floating fronds. Material properties (breaking stress, breaking extension), buoyancy, and the proportion of reproductive tissue per frond were measured for juvenile, adult, and old fronds of T. ornata. Correlations between these factors indicate that as fronds age and become more reproductively mature, the tissue in their stipes (where they break) becomes weaker, more brittle, and the overall buoyancy of the frond increases. Measurement of drag force experienced by fronds from each ontogenetic stage allowed calculation of the environmental stress factor (ESF), which indicates the likelihood of detachment of a frond in the flow environment of its habitat. The ESF for fronds of each ontogenetic stage predicted that reproductively mature fronds (adult and old) break more readily than immature (juvenile) fronds. Increased proportions of reproductively mature fronds in floating rafts following storms compared with the proportion of mature fronds attached to the substratum support the ESF predictions. This combination of ontogenetic changes in material properties, buoyancy, and reproductive maturity in combination with the life history of T. ornata may contribute to the dispersal of this alga throughout French Polynesia.