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Clypeotheca, a new skeletal structure in scleractinian corals : a potential stress indicator

Nothdurft, Luke & Webb, Gregory (2009) Clypeotheca, a new skeletal structure in scleractinian corals : a potential stress indicator. Coral Reefs, 28(1), pp. 143-153.

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Abstract

Physiological responses to environmental stress are increasingly well studied in scleractinian corals. This work reports a new stress-related skeletal structure we term clypeotheca. Clypeotheca was observed in several livecollected common reef-building coral genera and a two to three kya subfossil specimen from Heron Reef, Great Barrier Reef and consists of an epitheca-like skeletal wall that seals over the surface of parts of the corallum in areas of stress or damage. It appears to form from a coordinated process wherein neighboring polyps and adjoining coenosarc seal themselves off from the surrounding environment as they contract and die. Clypeotheca forms from inward skeletal centripetal growth at the edges of corallites and by the merging of flange-like outgrowths that surround individual spines over the surface of the coenosteum. Microstructurally, the merged flanges are similar to upsidedown dissepiments and true epitheca. Clypeotheca is interpreted primarily as a response to stress that may help protect the colony from invasion of unhealthy tissues by parasites or disease by retracting tissues in areas that have become unhealthy for the polyps. Identification of skeletal responses of corals to environmental stress may enable the frequency of certain types of environmental stress to be documented in past environments. Such data may be important for understanding the nature of reef dynamics through intervals of climate change and for monitoring the effects of possible anthropogenic stress in modern coral reef habitats.

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4 citations in Scopus
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5 citations in Web of Science®

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ID Code: 28619
Item Type: Journal Article
Keywords: Scleractinian coral, Environmental stress, Skeletal modification, Physiological response, Fossil coral
DOI: 10.1007/s00338-008-0439-7
ISSN: 0722-4028
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > EARTH SCIENCES (040000) > GEOLOGY (040300)
Divisions: Past > Schools > Biogeoscience
Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > Faculty of Science and Technology
Deposited On: 16 Nov 2009 15:28
Last Modified: 29 Feb 2012 23:59

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