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Biol Bull. 2000 Aug;199(1):68-75.

Early development of zooxanthella-containing eggs of the corals Pocillopora verrucosa and P. eydouxi with special reference to the distribution of zooxanthellae.

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Marine Environmental Science, Department of Chemistry, Biology and Marine Science, University of the Ryukyus, Nishihara, Okinawa, Japan.


Some hermatypic corals spawn eggs that contain zooxanthellae. We followed development of zooxanthella-containing eggs of two such species, Pocillopora verrucosa and P. eydouxi. We also documented changes in the distribution pattern of zooxanthellae during development. Oocytes of both species took up zooxanthellae 3 to 4 days before spawning. At first, zooxanthellae were evenly distributed in oocytes, but they later moved to the hemisphere that contained the germinal vesicle. After fertilization, early cleavage events were holoblastic, progressing by furrow formation. The first cleavage furrow started at the hemisphere that contained zooxanthellae, dividing the zooxanthellate complement of the zygote about equally into the two blastomeres. The second division divided each blastomere into one zooxanthellae-rich cell and one with few zooxanthellae. With continued cell division, blastomeres containing zooxanthellae moved into the blastocoel. The blastocoel disappeared at about 5 h after the first cleavage, and the central region of the embryo was filled with cells containing either zooxanthellae or lipid droplets, forming a stereogastrula. Our results suggest that only blastomeres that had been determined to develop into gastrodermal cells receive zooxanthellae during cleavage. This determination appears to take place, at the latest, by the second cell division at the four-cell stage.

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