Colony growth in the harvested octocoral Pseudopterogorgia acerosa in a Caribbean coral reef

Authors

  • Nini Johana Cadena,

    1. Departamento Ciencias Biológicas-Facultad de Ciencias, Laboratorio de Biología Molecular Marina (BIOMMAR), Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá, Colombia
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Juan Armando Sánchez

    1. Departamento Ciencias Biológicas-Facultad de Ciencias, Laboratorio de Biología Molecular Marina (BIOMMAR), Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá, Colombia
    Search for more papers by this author

Juan Armando Sánchez, Departamento Ciencias Biológicas-Facultad de Ciencias, Laboratorio de Biología Molecular Marina (BIOMMAR), Universidad de los Andes, Carrera 1E No 18A – 10, Bogotá, Colombia.
E-mail: juansanc@uniandes.edu.co

Abstract

Pseudopterogorgia acerosa is the tallest gorgonian octocoral found in the Caribbean. In the Cartagena area, Colombia, P. acerosa is commonly harvested as raw material for handicrafts, rendering important the study of its growth and population dynamics. Growth measurements of branches from multiple colonies at two different reefs during 1 year revealed that the main growth was due to rapid elongation of the main (‘mother’) branch and production of daughter branches from the same (or just a few) mother branch(es). Some small colonies doubled their original size in a year. The branches’ absolute growth rate was weakly correlated with size, with no significant relationships between branch size and percent growth. While the pinnate branching pattern in P. acerosa is similar to its congeners Pseudopterogorgia elisabethae and Pseudopterogorgia bipinnata, it produces taller colonies due to the faster growth rate in the primordial mother branch. This growth mode seems advantageous as it augments exposure to light and higher fluxes of suspended food in the benthic boundary layer. Post-harvesting, clipped colonies exhibited clear signs of regeneration, even in cases where only the holdfast remained. Pseudopterogorgia acerosa seems to have similar regeneration capabilities respect to other Pseudopterogorgia species, where regenerating colonies may grow faster than intact ones.

Ancillary