Unusual pattern of embryogenesis of Caryophyllia inornata (scleractinia, caryophylliidae) in the mediterranean sea: Maybe agamic reproduction?



While knowledge of the reproductive biology of tropical scleractinian corals is extensive, information from temperate zones is limited. The aim of this study is to describe the reproductive biology of Caryophyllia inornata, a temperate species, and to increase the understanding of the reproductive strategies of Mediterranean corals. Samples of C. inornata were collected during SCUBA surveys at Elba island. Sexually active individuals displayed either male or female germ cells, showing a gonochoric sexuality. C. inornata exhibited an unusual pattern of embryogenesis. Embryos appeared throughout the whole year in males and in sexually inactive individuals, and they did not show a seasonal pattern of development, as usually expected for sexual reproduction. This observation suggests the possibility of asexual origin. These embryogenetic sexually inactive individuals were larger in size than the embryogenetic sexually active ones, and they might be senile polyps that preserve the ability to produce embryos only by agamic reproduction. J. Morphol. 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.