Reproductive Biology of the Deep-Water Gorgonian Coral Acanella arbuscula from the Northwest Atlantic
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This thesis examined the reproductive biology of the poorly-known deep-water gorgonian Acanella arbuscula from the Northwest Atlantic. Colonies were collected from The Gully in 2007 and 2010 between 914 and 1860 m depth, and the Flemish Cap in 2009 between 671 and 1264 m. Mean polyp fecundity was relatively high for both females and males, and the large oocyte size suggests that A. arbuscula produces lecithotrophic larvae. This species may have overlapping periodic or seasonal cycles of gametogenesis, and the absence of planulae suggests that A. arbuscula is a broadcast spawner. No spatial variation in the reproductive characteristics of this species was found, suggesting that environmental conditions are similar between the two sites. Female polyp fecundity decreased with increasing depth, which may be due to the high cost of producing oocytes versus sperm. The relatively high mean polyp fecundity, probable lecithotrophic larval development, and broadcast spawning may allow for the wide dispersal and settlement of A. arbuscula across the North Atlantic.