Biannual spawning and temporal reproductive isolation in Acropora corals

J.P. Gilmour, Jim N. Underwood, E.J. Howells, Emily Gates, Andrew J. Heyward

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


© 2016 Gilmour et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Coral spawning on the oceanic reef systems of north-Western Australia was recently discovered during autumn and spring, but the degree to which species and particularly colonies participated in one or both of these spawnings was unknown. At the largest of the oceanic reef systems, the participation by colonies in the two discrete spawning events was investigated over three years in 13 species of Acropora corals (n = 1,855 colonies). Seven species spawned during both seasons; five only in autumn and one only in spring. The majority of tagged colonies (n = 218) spawned once a year in the same season, but five colonies from three species spawned during spring and autumn during a single year. Reproductive seasonality was not influenced by spatial variation in habitat conditions, or by Symbiodinium partners in the biannual spawner Acropora tenuis. Colonies of A. tenuis spawning during different seasons separated into two distinct yet cryptic groups, in a Bayesian clustering analysis based on multiple microsatellite markers. These groups were associated with a major genetic divergence (G"ST = 0.469), despite evidence of mixed ancestry in a small proportion of individuals. Our results confirm that temporal reproductive isolation is a common feature of Acropora populations at Scott Reef and indicate that spawning season is a genetically determined trait in at least A. tenuis. This reproductive isolation may be punctuated occasionally by interbreeding between genetic groups following favourable environmental conditions, when autumn spawners undergo a second annual gametogenic cycle and spawn during spring.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0150916
Number of pages14
JournalPLoS One
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2016


Dive into the research topics of 'Biannual spawning and temporal reproductive isolation in Acropora corals'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this