Detailed visualization of settlement and early development in Leptastrea purpurea reveals distinct bio-optical features



<jats:p>Sexually produced juvenile scleractinian corals play a key role in the adaptation process of coral reefs, as they are considered to possess an innate plasticity and thus can adjust to changing environmental parameters within a certain range. In this study we investigated in detail the early life stages of the brooding species <jats:italic>Leptastrea purpurea</jats:italic> to identify, categorize and visualize the critical steps of the complex transformation process from a swimming coral larva to a sessile coral recruit and later to a coral colony. For that, we performed settlement experiments using previously known cues: cycloprodigiosin (CYPRO) and crustose coralline algae (CCA) as well as novel cues: crude extracts of <jats:italic>Pseudoalteromonas espejiana</jats:italic> and <jats:italic>P. piscicida</jats:italic> to identify a general, cue-independent settlement pathway. We monitored the development of <jats:italic>L. purpurea</jats:italic> over 12 months using bright field and fluorescence microscopy. Also we identified the fluorescence signals of <jats:italic>L. purpurea</jats:italic> with confocal microscopy at four crucial development steps: (A) swimming larva, (B) metamorphosing larva, (C) coral recruit and (D) adult coral. Our methodological approach allowed us to observe an ontogenetic shift of fluorescence signals which provokes the hypothesis that certain fluorescence patterns might be connected to distinct sequential functions in the early life cycle of scleractinian corals. Our observations showed great similarities to the early development of other brooding and spawning corals, making <jats:italic>L. purpurea</jats:italic> a prospective candidate to be used as a model organism for coral research. Furthermore, our in-depth picture series provides a robust monitoring reference for coral nurseries or field applications and demonstrates the potential of fluorescence as an indicator to instantly determine the growth stage of a developing coral recruit.</jats:p>

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DOI 10.3389/fmars.2023.984656

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Fiegel, L. J. , Kellermann, M. Y. , Nietzer, S. , Petersen, L. E. , Smykala, M. , Bickmeyer, U. and Schupp, P. J. (2023): Detailed visualization of settlement and early development in Leptastrea purpurea reveals distinct bio-optical features , Frontiers in Marine Science, 10 . doi: 10.3389/fmars.2023.984656

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