Scleractinian corals capture zooplankton within days of settlement and metamorphosis.


Cumbo, V. R.Edmunds, P. J.Fan, T. -Y.


Coral Reefs


Corals face unique challenges in their early life stages, as their larvae lack tentacles to capture particulates to meet metabolic demands. Instead, they must meet these costs from food reserves or alternative modes of nutrition such as dissolved organic material or, when they contain Symbiodinium, autotrophy (Edmunds et al. 2001). Once settled, rapid metamorphosis and development of tentacles are advantageous, because tentacles facilitate particle capture to augment the supply of energy and nutrients necessary for polyp growth. However, it is unknown how early in their development corals begin to capture and ingest food. We found that 8-day-old Seriatopora caliendrum recruits feed on freshly hatched Artemia nauplii. Upon exposure to live Artemia, erect tentacles contacted the swimming crustaceans and immobilized them within seconds (Fig. 1a), presumably using nematocysts. The tentacles then wrapped around the Artemia (Fig. 1b) and pulled them into the mouth within 10–20 min (Fig. 1c–d). Single recruits captured and ingested multiple Artemia, with one recruit ingesting five Artemia within an hour. While access to food enhances the growth of coral recruits, from which it can be inferred that particle capture occurs (Lewis 1974; Petersen et al. 2008), this is the earliest known age at which benthic corals have been recorded to capture zooplankton. A voracious capacity for zooplanktivory within just a few days of settlement and metamorphosis may be a key determinant of post-settlement success.





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Journal Article

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