Clypeotheca, a new skeletal structure in scleractinian corals: A potential stress indicator

Nothdurft, L. D. and Webb, G. E. (2009) Clypeotheca, a new skeletal structure in scleractinian corals: A potential stress indicator. Coral Reefs, 28 1: 143-153. doi:10.1007/s00338-008-0439-7

Author Nothdurft, L. D.
Webb, G. E.
Title Clypeotheca, a new skeletal structure in scleractinian corals: A potential stress indicator
Journal name Coral Reefs   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0722-4028
Publication date 2009-03-01
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1007/s00338-008-0439-7
Open Access Status Not Open Access
Volume 28
Issue 1
Start page 143
End page 153
Total pages 11
Place of publication Heidelberg, Germany
Publisher Springer
Language eng
Formatted abstract
Physiological responses to environmental stress are increasingly well studied in scleractinian corals. This work reports a new stress-related skeletal structure we term clypeotheca. Clypeotheca was observed in several live-collected common reef-building coral genera and a two to three kya subfossil specimen from Heron Reef, Great Barrier Reef and consists of an epitheca-like skeletal wall that seals over the surface of parts of the corallum in areas of stress or damage. It appears to form from a coordinated process wherein neighboring polyps and adjoining coenosarc seal themselves off from the surrounding environment as they contract and die. Clypeotheca forms from inward skeletal centripetal growth at the edges of corallites and by the merging of flange-like outgrowths that surround individual spines over the surface of the coenosteum. Microstructurally, the merged flanges are similar to upside-down dissepiments and true epitheca. Clypeotheca is interpreted primarily as a response to stress that may help protect the colony from invasion of unhealthy tissues by parasites or disease by retracting tissues in areas that have become unhealthy for the polyps. Identification of skeletal responses of corals to environmental stress may enable the frequency of certain types of environmental stress to be documented in past environments. Such data may be important for understanding the nature of reef dynamics through intervals of climate change and for monitoring the effects of possible anthropogenic stress in modern coral reef habitats.
Keyword Scleractinian coral
Environmental stress
Skeletal modification
Physiological response
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status Non-UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: School of Earth Sciences Publications
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