Distribution, abundance and survival of juvenile hermatypic corals (Scleractinia) and the importance of life history strategies in the parent coral community

The distribution and abundance of juvenile corals were examined at depths from 3 to 37 m on the reefs of Curaçao and Bonaire (Netherlands Antilles). Juveniles of Agaricia agaricites were most abundant (60.6%), followed by Helioseris cucullata (8.3%). The large massive corals such as Montastrea annularis, M. cavernosa and branched species such as Madracis mirabilis and Acropora palmata had few juveniles. This, combined with species characteristics, shows that these species employ very different life history strategies. In some species the abundance of juveniles over the reef paralleled that of larger colonies, but not for example in Agaricia agaricites. The composition of the coral community was apparently no direct function of juvenile abundance. A change in angle of settlement of A. agaricites juveniles with increasing depth, from vertical to horizontal surfaces, seems to reflect the preferred light intensity. We studied the survival of juvenile corals during a half-year period. One-third remained unharmed, one-third died or disappeared, and one-third was limited in growth by factors such as spatial competition. This was the same for all depths, but factors influencing survival varied with depth.

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