Sediment-Shifting Capability in the Recent Solitary Coral Scolymia Cubensis (Milne-Edwards and Haime) from Bermuda
The solitary zooxanthellate scleractinian coral Scolymia cubensis occurs in shaded habitats on rim, main terrace, and fore-reef slope reefs in Bermuda, where it is usually attached to the substrate with the plane of the calice inclined at a relatively steep angle to the horizontal, a possible ecological adaptation for sediment shifting. Experiments were performed in the aquarium with sediments of different grain sizes on duplicate sets of corals inclined horizontally, at 35° and at 75° over 12-h periods of quiescence (day) and feeding (night). These experiments indicated that shifting rates always increase with increasing calical angle, whatever the grain size or phase of activity, although fine-grained sediments are more rapidly removed than coarse-grained sediments. Mucus strands and ciliary currents combine to round up and transport grains to the edge of the oral disc, the movement always being directed downslope, with possible ciliary reversal above the mouth. Periodic distension of the central part of the disc by pulsation relieves sediment obstruction around the lip in contracted individuals. Horizontally-orientated corals experience great difficulty in removing grains of any size from the oral disc, particularly during the day. Addition of grains to the horizontal or gently-inclined disc during feeding activity may result in their inadvertent ingestion and ultimate regurgitation as mucus-bound pseudofeces easier to slough off. Such studies on the efficiency of modern solitary corals in shifting sediments may have important paleoecological implications for solitary fossil scleractinians and even Rugosa.
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Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: 1988-09-01
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