Reproduction of the Azooxanthellate Coral Caryophyllia inornata Is Not Affected by Temperature Along an 850 km Gradient on the Western Italian Coast

Chiara Marchini, Giada Tortorelli, Elena Guidi, Valentina Airi, Giuseppe Falini, Zvy Dubinsky, Stefano Goffredo

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4 Scopus citations


The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicted that ocean surface temperature will rise of 0.6–2.0°C by 2100. Ocean warming is expected to produce strong impacts on marine ecosystems such as coral reefs, affecting their physiological events including reproductive processes. To date, relatively few studies have examined the effects of climate change on the reproductive success of temperate corals and even less in the azooxanthellate ones. This study examined the reproductive output of the azooxanthellate Mediterranean coral Caryophyllia inornata along a wide latitudinal gradient of seawater temperature and solar radiation. A total of 260 samples, collected from five populations along the Western Italian coast, have been analyzed through histological techniques. The intriguing aspects characterizing all populations of C. inornata along the latitudinal gradient are a strong male-biased sex ratio and the presence of embryos in all stages of development throughout the year in females, males, and sexually inactive individuals. This peculiarity could suggest a mixed strategy of sexual and asexual reproduction in this species as has been observed for some anemones of the genus Actinia. Fecundity and spermary abundance (i.e., the number of reproductive elements per body volume unit), gonadal index (i.e., the percentage of body volume occupied by the germ cells) and fertility (i.e., the number of embryos per body volume unit) in females, males and sexually inactive individuals were unrelated to solar radiation and temperature along the latitudinal gradient. These results suggest that the reproduction in C. inornata is not affected by increasing solar radiation and temperature. The lack of zooxanthellae could make this species less dependent on these environmental parameters, as previously hypothesized for another azooxanthellate species, Leptopsammia pruvoti, investigated along the same gradient.

Original languageEnglish
Article number785
JournalFrontiers in Marine Science
StatePublished - 8 Jan 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Copyright © 2020 Marchini, Tortorelli, Guidi, Airi, Falini, Dubinsky and Goffredo.


  • Mediterranean Sea
  • asexual reproduction
  • embryogenesis
  • gametogenesis
  • global warming
  • scleractinia


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