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Keywords:

  • Hexacoral;
  • Ligurian Sea;
  • oogenesis;
  • reproductive cycle;
  • sex ratio;
  • spermiogenesis

Abstract

Despite the wide distribution of zoanthids, little is known about their pattern of reproduction. Here we investigate the reproductive biology of two Mediterranean species, the common Parazoanthus axinellae (Schmidt) and the rare Savalia savaglia (Bertoloni). For both species, samples were collected during an annual cycle, from January to December 2005, in the Western Mediterranean (Ligurian Sea, Italy). Both species are gonochoric. In P. axinellae the sex-ratio (n colonies = 30) showed a slight predominance of male colonies (M/F = 1.35), whereas in the population of S. savaglia (n colonies = 15) a predominance of females was found (M/F = 0.3). In P. axinellae the first gametocytes were visible in March, whereas in S. savaglia they became visible in May. Both species reproduce at the end of autumn when seawater temperature begins to decrease. Parazoanthus axinellae (10 m depth) spawns eggs and sperms in November, whereas S. savaglia (67 m depth) spawns in December. In P. axinellae sexes were segregated on a rocky wall, with males occurring deeper, whereas male and female colonies of S. savaglia were irregularly dispersed in the population. The maximum number of oocytes differed between the species, being higher in P. axinellae than in S. savaglia.