Correlated evolution of sex and reproductive mode in corals (Anthozoa: Scleractinia)

Kerr, Alexander M., Baird, Andrew H., and Hughes, Terry P. (2011) Correlated evolution of sex and reproductive mode in corals (Anthozoa: Scleractinia). Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B, Biological Sciences, 278 (1702). pp. 75-81.

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Sexuality and reproductive mode are two fundamental life-history traits that exhibit largely unexplained macroevolutionary patterns among the major groups of multicellular organisms. For example, the cnidarian class Anthozoa (corals and anemones) is mainly comprised of gonochoric (separate sex) brooders or spawners, while one order, Scleractinia (skeleton-forming corals), appears to be mostly hermaphroditic spawners. Here, using the most complete phylogeny of scleractinians, we reconstruct how evolutionary transitions between sexual systems (gonochorism versus hermaphrodism) and reproductive modes (brooding versus spawning) have generated large-scale taxonomic patterns in these characters. Hermaphrodites have independently evolved in three large, distantly related lineages consisting of mostly reef-building species. Reproductive mode in corals has evolved at twice the rate of sexuality, while the evolution of sexuality has been heavily biased: gonochorism is over 100 times more likely to be lost than gained, and can only be acquired by brooders. This circuitous evolutionary pathway accounts for the prevalence of hermaphroditic spawners among reef-forming scleractinians, despite their ancient gonochoric heritage.

Item ID: 15356
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1471-2954
Keywords: coral reef; evolution; life history; phylogeny; reproduction
Date Deposited: 24 Feb 2011 04:29
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0603 Evolutionary Biology > 060309 Phylogeny and Comparative Analysis @ 100%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960808 Marine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 100%
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