[Coral-List] Proliferation of Acropora prolifera

vassil zlatarski vzlatarski at yahoo.com
Thu Sep 5 07:02:03 EDT 2013

Dear Coral-List Fellows,

Thanks for the vivid collegial interest in the issues of the Caribbean hybrid Acropora prolifera.

Long-term observations on A. prolifera distribution since 1970 revealed intriguing changes.  First, from 1970 to 1973 A. prolifera was rare in Cuba, only appearing as single colonies in clear water (Zlatarski & Martinez Estalella, 1982*).  During 1983-84 investigation in Yucatan Peninsula, SE Mexico colonies appeared to be single and in clusters at the margin of densely populated zones of the parent species (Zlatarski, 2008**).  Back in SE Cuba in 2001, A. prolifera was more frequently encountered, even in murky shallow water, sometimes far from the devastated A. palmata and A. cervicornis zones.  In the protected laguna, behind Archipielago Jardines de la
 of A. prolifera were accumulated in a way that provided with other benthonic organisms a base of peculiar build-ups on sandy bottom (Zlatarski, 2010***).  In SW Cuba in 2001 large colonies of the hybrid covered considerable areas before populated by the parents species.  In one case the sea-scape was so impressive that the AGRRA team named it "Shangri-La" (photo Ken Marks).  In Guacanayabo Bay the hybrid was and is frequenting only with one of the parent species, A cervicornis.  The otherparent species, A. palmata was never found since the first investigation there in 1971.  Interestingly, back-crossing occurs only with A. cervicornis.  With passing time, lately the hybrid was found in more places, in larger quantity of colonies, but also in various growth forms.  These long-termobservations coincide with recent joint conclusions of five leaders in the area of coral genetics and reproduction (Willis et al., 2006****) on the opportunistic
 character of hybridization in Caribbean Acropora.  What can be said about the scale and impact of this hybridization?  It is defined, first, by the occurrence of prolifera throughout the Caribbean range of its parent species, and, second, by the capacity to colonize marginal habitats and adapt to environmental changes, as well as provide substratum on sandy bottom.  It is still open the question about the duration of this hybridization.  It started in some unknown temporal point, which determination will reveal the paleobiological role of the hybridization process.  There is only one communication for fossil A. prolifera, before the Pleistocene (Frost, 1977*****).  The material was not revised and new paleontological studies are necessary. 

On some problems of A. prolifera is working only one person, Dr. Nicole Fogarty, and her
 research is
 really excellent.  Naturally, I sent my posting to Coral-List with copy to Nikki.  She immediately responded from Belize, informing that is working on the acroporid hybridization project.  What a chance for our forum I realized, and asked Nikki to share her news with Coral-List.   The contact was interrupted, but I expect that returning today she will offer something exiting.  In meantime, the interested colleagues could google for her publications by going to NOVA Southeastern University.

*        Zlatarski, V.N., Martinez Estalella, N., 1982. Les Scléractiniaires de 
Cuba avec des données sur les organismes associés. Editions de 
l’Académie bulgare des Sciences, annexe I, Sofia, 472 pp. 
**      Zlatarski, V.N., 2008. Scleractinians of Yucatán Peninsula, México: results of 1983–1984 investigation. CICIMAR Oceánides 22 (1–2), 45–116.
***    Zlatarski, V.N., 2010. Palaeobiological perspectives on variability and taxonomy of scleractinian corals. Palaeoworld, 19/3-4, 333-339.
****  Willis, B.L., van Oppen, M..J.H., Miller, D.J., Vollmer, S.V., Ayre, D.J., 2006.  The role of hybridization in the evolution of reef corals. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics 37, 489-517.          
*****Frost, S.H., 1977. Miocene to Holocene evolution of Caribbean Province reef building corals. Proceedings Third International Coral Reef Symposium, Miami, Florida, 2. Geology, pp. 354–359.



Vassil Zlatarski
D.Sc. (Biology), Ph.D.

131 Fales Rd., Bristol, RI 02809, USA;  tel.: +1-401-254-5121

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