Coral Reefs

, Volume 38, Issue 1, pp 1–14 | Cite as

Fragmentation, re-attachment ability and growth rate of the Mediterranean black coral Antipathella subpinnata

  • M. CoppariEmail author
  • F. Mestice
  • F. Betti
  • G. Bavestrello
  • L. Castellano
  • M. Bo


Cnidarians are known for their simple body plan and their complex life cycles, involving high regenerative and asexual-reproduction potential. In particular, several asexual reproductive strategies are known for anthozoans, including fragmentation, carried out by tentacles, by groups of polyps or by portions of colonies. Here, we report the first observation of an extensive event of fragmentation in the Mediterranean black coral species Antipathella subpinnata (Antipatharia: Myriopathidae) in rearing conditions. Once detached, fragments lose their polarity and new anchorages are rapidly created with polyps and cnidocysts participating in the adhesion phases. Multiple attachments are frequently observed, with new skeletal plates produced through the expansion of spines. Dendritic spines gradually arise on these new plates. Fragments start to generate numerous new branchlets orientating upward and with a fixed arrangement. In 7 months of monitoring, fragments revealed fast growth rates, up to 1.85 and 1.58 cm month−1, for the whole fragments and new branchlets, respectively. Attachment of black coral fragments has never been recorded in the field; nevertheless, frequent adhesions observed in aquaria suggest that fragmentation could be a successful reproductive strategy in these anthozoans.



Authors would like to thank the two reviewers who significantly improved this manuscript with their helpful suggestions, the Carabinieri Military Force (Centro Carabinieri Subacquei di Genova in particular Marshal Duilio Lenzini’s team) and the diving center “Il Grande Blu” for their help during sampling procedures; Acquario di Genova Mediterranean Staff Department for the knowhow and support in black corals’ husbandry and the Scanning Electron Microscopy Laboratory of the Department of Earth, Environment and Life Sciences, University of Genoa. This work was funded by BIOMOUNT project MIUR-SIR (RBSI14HC9O, Biodiversity patterns of the Tyrrhenian Seamounts).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The submitting author declares, on behalf of all the authors, no financial, personal or professional conflict of interests.

Supplementary material

338_2018_1764_MOESM1_ESM.docx (48 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 47 kb)


  1. Acosta A, Sammarco PW, Duarte LF (2001) Asexual reproduction in a zoanthid by fragmentation: the role of exogenous factors. Bull Mar Sc 68:363–381Google Scholar
  2. Bickell-Page LR, Mackie GO (1991) Tentacle autotomy in the hydromedusa Aglantha digitale (Cnidaria): an ultrastructural and neurophysiological analysis. Philos T Roy Soc B 331:155–170CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bo M (2008) Taxonomy and ecology of antipatharians. Ph.D. Dissertation in Marine Biology and Ecology, Università Politecnica delle Marche, Ancona, Italy, p 212Google Scholar
  4. Bo M, Tazioli S, Spanò N, Bavestrello G (2008) Antipathella subpinnata (Antipatharia, Myriopathidae) in Italian seas. Ital J Zool 75:185–195CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bo M, Di Camillo CG, Addamo AM, Valisano L, Bavestrello G (2009) Growth strategies of whip black corals (Cnidaria: Antipatharia) in the Bunaken Marine Park (Celebes, Indonesia). Mar Biodivers Rec 2:e54CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bo M, Canese S, Bavestrello G (2014) Discovering Mediterranean black coral forests: Parantipathes larix (Anthozoa: Hexacorallia) in the Tuscan Archipelago, Italy. It J Zool 81:112–125CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bo M, Bavestrello G, Angiolillo A, Calcagnile L, Canese S, Cannas R, Al C, D’Elia M, D’Oriano F, Follesa MC, Quarta G, Cau A (2015) Persistence of pristine deep-sea coral gardens in the Mediterranean Sea (SW Sardinia). PLoS one 10:e0119393CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bo M, Barucca M, Biscotti MA, Brugler MR, Canapa A, Canese S, Lo Iacono C, Bavestrello G (2018) Phylogenetic relationships of Mediterranean black corals (Cnidaria: Anthozoa: Hexacorallia) and implications for classification within the order Antipatharia. Invertebr Syst 32:1102–1110Google Scholar
  9. Bocharova E (2016) Reproduction of sea anemones and other hexacorals. In: Goffredo S, Dubinsky Z (eds) The cnidaria, past, present and future. Springer, Cham, pp 239–248CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Brazeau DA, Lasker HR (1992) Growth rates and growth strategy in a clonal marine invertebrate, the Caribbean octocoral Briareum asbestinum. Biol Bull 183:269–277CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Coffroth MA, Lasker HR (1998) Population structure of a clonal gorgonian coral: the interplay between clonal reproduction and disturbance. Evolution 52:379–393CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. De Matos V, Gomes-Pereira JN, Tempera F, Ribeiro PA, Braga-Henriques A, Porteiro F (2014) First record of Antipathella subpinnata (Antozoa, Antipatharia) in the Azores (NE Atlantic), with description of the first monotypic garden of this species. Deep-sea Res Pt II 99:113–121CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Fautin DJ (2002) Reproduction of cnidaria. Can J Zool 80:1735–1754CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Foster NL, Baums IB, Mumby PJ (2007) Sexual and asexual reproduction in an ecosystem-engineer: the massive coral Montastraea annularis. J Anim Ecol 76:384–391CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Gaino E, Scoccia F (2010) Gamete spawning in Antipathella subpinnata (Anthozoa, Antipatharia): a structural and ultrastructural investigation. Zoomorphology 129:213–219CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Geller JB, Fitzgerald LJ, King CE (2005) Fission in sea anemones: integrative studies of life cycle evolution. Integr Comp Biol 45:615–622CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gilmore MD, Hall BR (1976) Life history, growth habits, and constructional roles of Acropora cervicornis in the patch reef environment. J Sedim Petrol 46:519–522Google Scholar
  18. Goenaga C (1977) Two new species of Stichopathes (Zoantharia: Antipatharia) with observation on aspect of their biology. Thesis in Master Science, University of Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico, p 101Google Scholar
  19. Gonçalves Ferreira J (2016) On the origin of bilaterality: insights from the study of black corals (Cnidaria: Antipatharia). Populations and evolution. Université Pierre et Marie Curie, ParisGoogle Scholar
  20. González E, Guitart B, Garcia M (1997) Sown black coral in the Cuban southwest. In: Proceedings of the 5th congress on marine science, MarCuba’00, Havana, Cuba, p 73Google Scholar
  21. Grange KR (1985) Distribution, standing crop, population structure and growth rates of black corals in the southern fiords of New Zealand. New Zeal J Mar Fresh 19:467–475CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Grange KR, Singleton RJ (1988) Population structure of black corals, Antipathes aperta, in the southern fiords of New Zealand. New Zeal J Zool 15:481–489CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Grigg RW (1964) A contribution to the biology and ecology of the black coral, Antipathes grandis in Hawaii. MS Thesis in Zoology, Hawaii, Honolulu, p 74Google Scholar
  24. Grigg RW (1965) Ecological studies of black corals in Hawaii. Pac Sci 19:244–260Google Scholar
  25. Grigg RW (1976) Fishery management of precious and stony corals in Hawaii. Sea Grant Technical, Report. UNIHI-SEAGRANT-TR-77-03, p 48Google Scholar
  26. Hand C, Uhlinger KR (1995) Asexual reproduction by transverse fission and some anomalies in the sea anemone Nematostella vectensis. Invertebr Biol 114:9–18CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Highsmith RC (1982) Reproduction by fragmentation in corals. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 7:207–226CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Ivanova-Kazas OM (1977) Bespoloye razmnogeniye zhivotnykh (Asexual reproduction of animals). Izdatel’stvo LGU, LeningradGoogle Scholar
  29. Lasker HR (1984) Asexual reproduction, fragmentation and skeletal morphology of a plexaurid gorgonian. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 19:261–268CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Lasker HR (1990) Clonal propagation and population dynamics of a gorgonian coral. Ecology 71:1578–1589CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Mali B, Mohrlen F, Frohme M, Frank U (2004) A putative double role of a chitinase in a cnidarian: pattern formation and immunity. Devel Comp Immun 28:973–981CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Miller K (1998) Short-distance dispersal of black coral larvae: inference from spatial analysis of colony genotypes. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 163:225–233CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Miller K, Grange KR (1997) Population genetic studies of antipatharian black corals from Doubtful and Nancy Sounds, Fiordland, New Zealand. In: Proceedings of the 6th international conference on coelenterate biology, pp 353–363Google Scholar
  34. Miller K, Ayre DJ (2004) The role of sexual and asexual reproduction in structuring high latitude populations of the reef coral Pocillopora damicornis. Heredity 92:557–568CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Montgomery AD (2002) The feasibility of transplanting black coral (Order Antipatharia). Hydrobiologia 471:157–164CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Oakley SG (1988) Settlement and growth of Antipathes pennacea on a shipwreck. Coral Reef 7:77–79CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Orejas C, Gori A, Gili JM (2008) Growth rate of live Lophelia pertusa and Madrepora oculata from the Mediterranean Sea maintained in aquaria. Coral Reefs 27:255CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Purcell JE (1977) Aggressive function and induced development of catch tentacles in the sea anemone Metridium senile (Coelenterata, Actinaria). Biol Bull Mar Biol Lab Woods Hole 153:355–368CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Russo GF, Vari L (1997) Life strategies of clone-forming anthozoans and the meaning of fragmentation. In: Cicogna F, Bavestrello G, Cattaneo-Vietti R (eds) Red Coral and other Mediterranean octocorals: biology and protection. Ministero per le politiche agricole, RomaGoogle Scholar
  40. Schiariti A, Kawahara M, Uye S, Mianzan HW (2008) Life cycle of the jellyfish Lychnohriza lucerne (Sciphozoa: Rhizostomeae). Mar Biol 156:1–12CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Schindelin J, Arganda-Carreras I, Frise E, Kaynig V, Longair M, Pietzsch T, Preibisch S, Rueden C, Saalfed S, Schimd B, Tinevez JY, White DJ, Hartenstein V, Eliceiri K, Tomankac P, Cardona A (2012) Fiji: an open-source platform for biological-image analysis. Nat Methods 9:676–682CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Thomson JA (1905) Scotia collections: Scottish Antarctic expedition—report on the Antipatharians. Proc R Phys Soc Edinb 16:76–79Google Scholar
  43. Wagner D, Luck DG, Toonen RJ (2012) The biology and ecology of black corals (Cnidaria: Anthozoa: Hexacorallia: Antipatharia). In: Advances in marine biology, vol 63, Academic Press, pp 67–132Google Scholar
  44. Walker TA, Bull GD (1983) A newly discovered method of reproduction in gorgonian coral. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 12:137–143CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Wallace CC (1985) Reproduction, recruitment and fragmentation in nine sympatric species of the coral genus Acropora. Mar Biol 88:217–233CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. Coppari
    • 1
    Email author
  • F. Mestice
    • 1
  • F. Betti
    • 1
  • G. Bavestrello
    • 1
  • L. Castellano
    • 2
  • M. Bo
    • 1
  1. 1.Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra, dell’Ambiente e della VitaUniversità degli Studi di GenovaGenoaItaly
  2. 2.Acquario di GenovaCosta Edutainment spaGenoaItaly

Personalised recommendations