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Biol Bull. 2006 Feb;210(1):10-7.

High fertilization success in a surface-brooding Caribbean gorgonian.

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, University at Buffalo, New York 14260, USA.


Colonies of the Caribbean gorgonian Pseudopterogorgia elisabethae release eggs that are retained on the colony surface where they are fertilized and then develop. In December 2001, spawning on San Salvador Island, Bahamas, occurred over 6 d, with spawning by any one colony limited to 1-3 d. With the exception of the first and last days of the spawning period, fertilization success was high, often greater than 90%. Eggs collected in December 2001 had an overall fertilization success of more than 66%. At one site, the increase in fertilization after the first day of spawning correlated with male spawning, but male gonad index was a poor predictor of fertilization success. The number of male colonies close to a female was not correlated with fertilization success. Surface brooding is an efficient mechanism for "harvesting" sperm released upstream of female colonies. By maintaining their eggs at a single location, surface-brooding species can extend the period over which eggs are likely to encounter sperm. As a result, fertilization success is summed across the temporal variance in sperm availability, and the need for very high densities of sperm, with its concomitant risk of polyspermy, may be reduced.

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