Mesophotic coral ecosystems (MCEs, between 30 and 150 m depth) are hypothesized to contribute to the recovery of degraded shallow reefs through sexually produced larvae (referred to as Deep Reef Refuge Hypothesis). In Okinawa, Japan, the brooder coral Seriatopora hystrix was reported to be locally extinct in a shallow reef while it was found abundant at a MCE nearby. In this context, S. hystrix represents a key model to test the Deep Reef Refuge Hypothesis and to understand the potential contribution of mesophotic corals to shallow coral reef recovery. However, the reproductive biology of mesophotic S. hystrix and its potential to recolonize shallow reefs is currently unknown. This study reports for the first time, different temporal scales of reproductive periodicity and larval settlement of S. hystrix from an upper mesophotic reef (40 m depth) in Okinawa. We examined reproductive seasonality, lunar, and circadian periodicity (based on polyp dissection, histology, and ex situ planula release observations) and larval settlement rates in the laboratory. Mesophotic S. hystrix reproduced mainly in July and early August, with a small number of planulae being released at the end of May, June and August. Compared to shallow colonies in the same region, mesophotic S. hystrix has a 4-month shorter reproductive season, similar circadian periodicity, and smaller planula size. In addition, most of the planulae settled rapidly, limiting larval dispersal potential. The shorter reproductive season and smaller planula size may result from limited energy available for reproduction at deeper depths, while the similar circadian periodicity suggests that this reproductive aspect is not affected by environmental conditions differing with depth. Overall, contribution of mesophotic S. hystrix to shallow reef rapid recovery appears limited, although they may recruit to shallow reefs through a multistep process over a few generations or through random extreme mixing such as typhoons.
Scleractinia (Hard Corals)
Japan - Ryukyu Islands (Okinawa)
SCUBA (open-circuit or unspecified)