Embryogenesis and acquisition of algal symbionts by planulae of Xenia umbellata (Octocorallia: Alcyonacea)

Y. Benayahu, Y. Achituv, T. Berner

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Early embryogenesis of the internally brooding soft coral Xenia umbellata and acquisition of algal symbionts in the course of its planular ontogenesis have been examined by scanning and transmission electron microscopy and by light microscopy. The endoderm of adult X. umbellata harbours symbionts mainly in the tentacles and in the peripheral solenia system. The colonies are gonochoric brooders. Algal symbionts were never found in the sperm sacs, and were only rarely found in the follicular tissue enclosing the oocytes. Fertilized eggs pass into endodermal brood pouches where embryogenesis occurs. Cleavage is holoblastic and leads to formation of a solid blastula. Algal symbionts are conspicuously embedded in the parental mesoglea that coats the young embryo, most probably transmitted by surface adherence. At a further stage, this integument disappears and the algae reside extracellularly among the cells of the newly-formed blastula. After subsequent cell proliferation developing planulae possess an inner mass of yolk-laden cells that contain numerous symbiotic algae. Gradually the yolk disintegrates, leaving a cavity enclosed by ectoderm, a thin mesoglea and an inner endoderm with intracellular symbionts. The mature planulae have already been provided with numerous intracellular symbionts by the time they are expelled from the brood pouches. The markedly early symbiont acquisition by the embryos of X. umbellata may help support their developmental requirements in the course of planular ontogenesis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93-101
Number of pages9
JournalMarine Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1988


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