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Evolution of Body Size in Mushroom Corals (Scleractinia: Fungiidae) and Its Ecomorphological Consequences

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image of Netherlands Journal of Zoology
For more content, see Archives Néerlandaises de Zoologie (Vol 1-17) and Animal Biology (Vol 53 and onwards).

Most Fungiidae are free-living and therefore they are able to dwell on various kinds of substrata. A large size may facilitate mushroom corals to acquire food and light, but it may also hinder their capacity to move and reject sediments. A cladistic analysis of the Fungiidae suggests that phylogenetic increase in body size may have induced the development of secondary mouths in several independent species lineages. This may have helped the corals to overcome size constraints and grow even larger, especially on reef flats and slopes with relatively little sedimentation, but not necessarily on the soft substrata of reef bases where species with ancestral small forms are most abundant. Fragmentation by autotomy, which occurs most frequently in the latter species, helps corals to remain small. Attached mushroom coral species with one mouth are the smallest, whereas those with more mouths are among the largest. Polystomatous free-living species are relatively rare in deep reef zones. On shallow, hard substrata, the evolution of secondary mouths may primarily increase the feeding efficiency. On soft, relatively deep substrata, additional mouths may help to prevent smothering. In at least one polystomatous species, the onset of secondary mouths starts in an earlier ontogenetic stage than in its oligostomatous sister species with infrequent additional mouths, which is an example of predisplacement in peramorphic heterochrony.

Affiliations: 1: (Department of Invertebrate Zoology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D. C. 20560, U.S.A


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