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Biology

The polyps of Pocillopora corals are hermaphrodite; they each possess four sets of male and four sets of female gonads (2). Pocillopora can reproduce asexually as well as sexually. Unlike many corals, the coral larvae develop inside the polyps rather than in the water column. When the mature larvae are released into the water, the larvae can remain free-swimming for several weeks before settling on the substrate. They can even become partly polyp-like during this period, enabling feeding to occur before settling and commencing skeleton formation (2). Pocillopora can also successfully reproduce asexually via fragmentation (5). Pocillopora corals are hermatypic corals, and therefore 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 (2). In return, the coral provides the zooxanthellae with protection, and access to sunlight. The wide geographic distribution of Pocillopora corals is probably due to rafting, whereby small colonies attach to floating objects, such as pumice, where they can travel great distance to remote places (3). The polyps can also obtain nutrition by capturing tiny prey using their tentacles.

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Source: ARKive

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