Influence of different feeding regimes on the survival, growth, and biochemical composition of Acropora coral recruits
Heterotrophic feeding in newly-settled coral planulae can potentially improve survivorship and accelerate early development in some species; however, an optimal diet to facilitate this does not currently exist. This study evaluated the efficacy of three heterotrophic feeding regimes (enriched rotifers, unfiltered seawater, and a novel, particulate diet), against a wholly-phototrophic treatment on Acropora hyacinthus, A. loripes, A. millepora, and A. tenuis recruits, over 93 days post-settlement. The unfiltered seawater treatment recorded maximum survival for all species (A. hyacinthus 95.9±8.0%, A. loripes: 74.3±11.5%, A. millepora: 67±12.7%, A. tenuis: 53.2±11.3%), although not significant. Growth (% surface area gain) was also greatest in the unfiltered seawater, and this was significant for A. millepora (870±307%) and A. tenuis(693±91.8%) (p<0.05). Although total lipid concentration was relatively stable across treatments, the lipid class composition exhibited species-specific responses to each treatment. Lower saturated and higher polyunsaturated fatty acids appeared beneficial to recruit performance, particularly in the unfiltered seawater, which generally contained the highest levels of 20:5n-3 (EPA), 22:6n-3 (DHA), and 20:4n-6 (ARA). The present study demonstrates the capacity of a nutritionally adequate and readily accepted heterotrophic feeding regime to increase coral recruit survival, growth, and health, which can greatly reduce the time required in cost- and labour-intensive culture.
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