Allorecognition maturation in the broadcast-spawning coral Acropora millepora

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Journal Article
Coral Reefs, 2012, 31 (4), pp. 1019 - 1028
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Many sessile marine invertebrates discriminate self from non-self with great precision, but maturation of allorecognition generally takes months to develop in juveniles. Here, we compare the development of allorecognition in full-sibling, half-sibling and non-sibling contact reactions between newly settled juveniles of the broadcast-spawning coral Acropora millepora on the Great Barrier Reef (Australia). Absence of a rejection response showed that A. millepora lacks a mature allorecognition system in the first 2 months post-settlement. From thereon, incompatibilities were observed between juveniles, their level of relatedness (i. e. full-, half- and non-sibling status) governing the rate of allorecognition maturation. All contact reactions between non-siblings resulted in rejections by 3 months post-settlement, whereas the expression of allorecognition took at least 5 months between half-siblings and longer than 13 months for some full-siblings. Approximately 74 % of fused full-siblings (n = 19) persisted as chimeras at 11 months, thus maturation of allorecognition in this spawning coral appeared to be slower (>13 months) than in brooding corals (~4 months). We hypothesize that late maturation of allorecognition may contribute to flexibility in Symbiodinium uptake in corals with horizontal transmission, and could allow fusions and chimera formation in early ontogeny, which potentially enable rapid size increase through fusion. © 2012 Springer-Verlag.
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