Larval dispersal and recruitment are important factors that determine the distribution of adult corals. The relationships between larval dispersal, recruitment, and the adult distribution of the blue octocoral, Heliopora coerulea, were investigated on Shiraho Reef, Ishigaki Island, southwest Japan. Heliopora coerulea is a surface brooder that releases planulae in June or July on Shiraho Reef. We observed planulae between 1998 and 2000 and found that they did not swim actively; instead, they crawled into their settlement positions after becoming grounded on the substratum. Planulae occurred throughout the water column and were dispersed by tidal and wind-driven currents around the parent population on the reef flat. Recruitment was observed only within 350 m of the parent populations, including areas between the branches of the adult colony. The planulae of H. coerulea had a narrow dispersal range as a result of their mostly benthic, shorter larval duration, and the influence of weaker currents. Thus, the dispersal distance of larvae is determined by their position in the water column, the currents that deliver the larvae, and the competency period of the larvae. The narrow dispersal range of H. coerulea was consistent with recruitment of sexually derived larvae onto their natal reef.
Article: Larval dispersal, recruitment, and adult distribution of the brooding stony octocoral Heliopora coerulea on Ishigaki Island, southwest Japan