A new scleractinian coral species, Pachyseris inattesa sp. n., is described from the Red Sea. Despite a superficial resemblance with some species in the agariciid genus Leptoseris with which it has been previously confused, P. inattesa sp. n. has micro-morphological characters typical of the genus Pachyseris. This genus, once part of the Agariciidae, is comprised of five extant species and is widely distributed throughout the tropical Indo-Pacific. It is currently incertae sedis as a result of recent molecular analysis and appears to be closely related to the Euphylliidae. A molecular phylogenetic reconstruction including P. inattesa sp. n., the genus type species P. rugosa, and P. speciosa, all present in the Red Sea, was performed using the mitochondrial intergenic spacer between COI and 16S-rRNA. The results confirm that P. inattesa sp. n. is a monophyletic lineage closely related to the other Pachyseris species examined.
The discovery of multi-species synchronous spawning of scleractinian corals on the Great Barrier Reef in the 1980s stimulated an extraordinary effort to document spawning times in other parts of the globe. Unfortunately, most of these data remain unpublished which limits our understanding of regional and global reproductive patterns. The Coral Spawning Database (CSD) collates much of these disparate data into a single place. The CSD includes 6178 observations (3085 of which were unpublished) of the time or day of spawning for over 300 scleractinian species in 61 genera from 101 sites in the Indo-Pacific. The goal of the CSD is to provide open access to coral spawning data to accelerate our understanding of coral reproductive biology and to provide a baseline against which to evaluate any future changes in reproductive phenology.
Coral spawning times have been linked to multiple environmental factors; however, to what extent these factors act as generalized cues across multiple species and large spatial scales is unknown. We used a unique dataset of coral spawning from 34 reefs in the Indian and Pacific Oceans to test if month of spawning and peak spawning month in assemblages of Acropora spp. can be predicted by sea surface temperature (SST), photosynthetically available radiation, wind speed, current speed, rainfall or sunset time. Contrary to the classic view that high mean SST initiates coral spawning, we found rapid increases in SST to be the best predictor in both cases (month of spawning: R(2) = 0.73, peak: R(2) = 0.62). Our findings suggest that a rapid increase in SST provides the dominant proximate cue for coral mass spawning over large geographical scales. We hypothesize that coral spawning is ultimately timed to ensure optimal fertilization success.
Without drastic efforts to reduce carbon emissions and mitigate globalized stressors, tropical coral reefs are in jeopardy. Strategic conservation and management requires identification of the environmental and socioeconomic factors driving the persistence of scleractinian coral assemblages-the foundation species of coral reef ecosystems. Here, we compiled coral abundance data from 2,584 Indo-Pacific reefs to evaluate the influence of 21 climate, social and environmental drivers on the ecology of reef coral assemblages. Higher abundances of framework-building corals were typically associated with: weaker thermal disturbances and longer intervals for potential recovery; slower human population growth; reduced access by human settlements and markets; and less nearby agriculture. We therefore propose a framework of three management strategies (protect, recover or transform) by considering: (1) if reefs were above or below a proposed threshold of >10% cover of the coral taxa important for structural complexity and carbonate production; and (2) reef exposure to severe thermal stress during the 2014-2017 global coral bleaching event. Our findings can guide urgent management efforts for coral reefs, by identifying key threats across multiple scales and strategic policy priorities that might sustain a network of functioning reefs in the Indo-Pacific to avoid ecosystem collapse.