Novel in situ observations of asexual reproduction in the carpet sea anemone, Stichodactyla mertensii (Stichodactylidae, Actiniaria)

Morgan F. Bennett-Smith*, Micaela S. Justo, Michael L. Berumen, Raquel Peixoto, Benjamin M. Titus

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Merten’s carpet sea anemone, Stichodactyla mertensii Brandt, 1835, is the largest known sea anemone species in the world, regularly exceeding one meter in oral disc diameter. A tropical species from the Indo-Pacific, S. mertensii drapes prominently over coral reef substrates and is a common host to numerous species of clownfishes and other symbionts throughout its range, which extends from the Red Sea through the Central Pacific Ocean. Long thought to reproduce via sexual reproduction only, recent genetic evidence suggests it may rarely reproduce asexually as well, although this process had never been confirmed through direct observation and the mechanism was yet to be described. Here, we directly observed and documented in situ asexual fragmentation via budding, in real time, by a Red Sea S. mertensii in a turbid inshore reef environment. While asexual reproduction is not unusual in sea anemones as a group, it is typi-cally expected to be uncommon for large-bodied species. Herein, we describe S. mertensii fragmentation, provide high resolution images of the event from the Saudi Arabian coastline at multiple time points, and confirm asexual reproduction for this species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)57-63
Number of pages7
JournalZooKeys
Volume2022
Issue number1103
DOIs
StatePublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology Coastal and Marine Resources Core Lab for providing assistance in the field. Thank you to Nathalia Delga-dillo Ordonez, Inês Gonçalves Raimundo, and Viktor Nunes Peinemann for accompa-nying the initial survey dives. This work was supported by the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST grant number BAS/1/1095-01-01 and KAUST Center Competitive Funding (CCF) FCC/1/1973‐51‐01), KAUST Office of the Provost, and US National Science Foundation Award to BMT (DEB-SBS 2205567).

Funding Information:
We thank the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology Coastal and Marine Resources Core Lab for providing assistance in the field. Thank you to Nathalia Delga-dillo Ordonez, Inês Gonçalves Raimundo, and Viktor Nunes Peinemann for accompanying the initial survey dives. This work was supported by the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST grant number BAS/1/1095-01-01 and KAUST Center Competitive Funding (CCF) FCC/1/1973‐51‐01), KAUST Office of the Provost, and US National Science Foundation Award to BMT (DEB-SBS 2205567).

Publisher Copyright:
© Morgan F. Bennett-Smith et al.

Keywords

  • Actinians
  • clonality
  • fragmentation
  • Indian Ocean
  • reproduction
  • sea anemones

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Insect Science
  • Palaeontology

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