Marine Biology

, Volume 160, Issue 3, pp 719–728 | Cite as

Seasonal cycle of sexual reproduction of the Mediterranean soft coral Alcyonium acaule (Anthozoa, Octocorallia)

  • I. Fiorillo
  • S. RossiEmail author
  • V. Alva
  • J. M. Gili
  • P. J. López-González
Original Paper


Alcyonium acaule (Cnidaria, Octocorallia) is a common, hard-bottom soft coral in the northwestern Mediterranean Sea. This study describes sexual reproduction and the gamete development cycle of this soft coral. A population at 15–18 m depth in the Marine Protected Area of the Medes Islands (42º02′55″ N, 3º13′30″ E) was sampled from July 1994–August 1995. A. acaule is gonochoristic and a surface brooder, spawning once a year in early summer. The mean diameter of ripe spermatic sacs was 400 ± 91 (SD) μm, and the mean diameter of mature oocytes was 473 ± 37 (SD) μm. There were 30 spermatic sacs polyp−1 in males and 14 oocytes polyp−1 in females. Different phases of gametogenesis in female and male colonies were examined separately with respect to seasonal changes in bottom temperature and solar irradiance. The data suggest that the relatively constant temperatures in January–April are probably not related to oocyte maturation, but that rising temperatures in May could affect sperm maturation. Rapidly increasing solar irradiance in March may be the trigger for vitellogenesis and oocyte maturation, although the mechanism for this in anthozoans is not understood.


Sexual Reproduction Reproductive Cycle Oocyte Maturation Soft Coral Mature Oocyte 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This work has been financed by the project D.G.I.C.Y.T. 1995-1998 PB94-0014-C02-0 and BENTOLARV CTM2009-10007. IF was funded by a FPU grant of Spain’s Ministry of Education and Science. SR was funded by a Ramón y Cajal contract (RYC-2007-01327). The authors are especially grateful to Josep Pascual for environmental data collection. We also thank C. Linares for the preliminary treatment of data. C. Orejas and G. Tsounis and three anonymous referees improved previous versions of this manuscript with their useful comments.

Supplementary material

227_2012_2126_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (22.7 mb)
Fig. 1 Electronic Supplementary Material (ESM) Alcyonium acaule, histological sections. Female colony: A, transverse section through gastrovascular cavity showing a pre-vitellogenic oocyte (pvo) and four vitellogenic oocytes (vo), mesenteries (mes) and mesogloea matrix (meg); B, vitellogenic oocytes (vo); C, early stage of pre-vitellogenic oocytes, note nucleolus, nucleus and reduced basophilic ooplasm; D and E, oocytes starting vitellogenesis. Male colony: F, group of spermatic sacs; G, spermatic sac (PDF 23288 kb)
227_2012_2126_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (94 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (PDF 93 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • I. Fiorillo
    • 1
  • S. Rossi
    • 2
    Email author
  • V. Alva
    • 1
  • J. M. Gili
    • 1
  • P. J. López-González
    • 3
  1. 1.Instituto de Ciencias del Mar (CSIC)BarcelonaSpain
  2. 2.Institut de Ciència i Tecnologia AmbientalsUniversitat Autònoma de BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain
  3. 3.Biodiversidad y Ecología de Invertebrados Marinos, Facultad de BiologíaUniversidad de SevillaSevillaSpain

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