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Proc Biol Sci. 2008 Oct 22;275(1649):2335-43. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2008.0675.

Bidirectional sex change in mushroom stony corals.

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Department of Zoology, Tel Aviv University, 69978 Tel Aviv, Israel.


Sex change occurs when an individual changes from one functional sex to another. The direction of sex change occurs mainly from male to female (protandry) or vice versa (protogyny), but sometimes may be bidirectional (repetitive). Here, for the first time in stony corals, we report on a protandrous sex change exhibited by two mushroom corals, Fungia repanda and Ctenactis echinata, with the latter also exhibiting bidirectional sex change. Compared with C. echinata, F. repanda exhibited relatively earlier sex change, significantly slower growth and higher mortality rates, in accordance with sex-allocation theory. Sex ratio in both the species was biased towards the first sex. The bidirectional sex change displayed by C. echinata greatly resembles that of dioecious plants that display labile sexuality in response to energetic and/or environmental constraints. We posit that, similar to these plants, in the studied corals, sex change increases their overall fitness, reinforcing the important role of reproductive plasticity in scleractinian corals in determining their evolutionary success.

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