Like other reef-building corals, the polyps of Porites corals have microscopic algae (zooxanthellae) living within their tissues. Through photosynthesis, these symbiotic algae produce energy-rich molecules that the coral polyps can use as nutrition. In return, the coral provides the zooxanthellae with protection and access to sunlight (3). Porites colonies also commonly house a wide variety of other fauna (3). The majority of corals are hermaphrodite, and thus colonies possess both male and female reproductive organs. However, Porites corals have separate male and female colonies. With a few exceptions, fertilization is internal and therefore depends on free-swimming sperm from male colonies reaching the polyps of female colonies. The fertilised eggs then develop into larvae within the female polyp's body cavity (2). When released, the larvae settle quickly close to the parent colony. Whilst this means that, unlike spawning corals, the coral is not easily dispersed, brooding corals have the advantage of their young settling in an environment that has already proved suitable for successful reproduction (3). Most of the spherical and hemispherical Porites species are tolerant of sedimentary environments, partly because they protect themselves with a thick film of mucous (3).
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