© 2016 Ricardo 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.Suspended sediments produced from dredging activities, or added to the sediment budget via river runoff, are a concern for marine resource managers. Understanding the impact of suspended sediments on critical life history stages of keystone species like corals is fundamental to effective management of coastlines and reefs. Coral embryos (Acropora tenuis and A. millepora) and larvae (A. tenuis, A. millepora and Pocillopora acuta) were subjected to a range of suspended sediment concentrations of different sediment types (siliciclastic and carbonate) to assess concentration-response relationships on ecologically relevant endpoints, including survivorship and ability to metamorphose. Embryos were subjected to short (12 h) suspended sediment exposures from ages of 3-12 hours old or a long (30 h) exposure at 6 hours old. Neither the survivorship nor metamorphosis function of embryos were significantly affected by realistic sediment exposures to ∼1000 mg L-1. However, some embryos exhibited a previously undescribed response to dynamically suspended sediments, which saw 10% of the embryos form negatively buoyant cocoons at siliciclastic suspended sediment concentrations ≥35 mg L-1. Scanning electron and optical microscopy confirmed the presence of a coating on these embryos, possibly mucus with incorporated sediment particles. Cocoon formation was common in embryos but not in larvae, and occurred more often after exposure to siliciclastic rather than carbonate sediments. Once transferred into sediment-free seawater, functional ∼36-h-old embryos began emerging from the cocoons, coinciding with cilia development. Ciliated (>36-h-old) larvae exposed to suspended sediments for 60 h were also observed to secrete mucus and were similarly unaffected by suspended sediment concentrations to ∼800 mg L-1. This study provides evidence that mucous secretion and cilia beating effectively protect coral embryos and larvae from suspended sediment and that these mechanisms may enhance their chances of successful recruitment.
Ricardo, G. F., Jones, R. J., Clode, P. L., & Negri, A. P. (2016). Mucous secretion and cilia beating defend developing coral larvae from suspended sediments. PLoS One, 11(9). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0162743