Growth rates and reproduction of a branching coral (Stylophora pistillata) were compared in the presence and in the absence of intraspecific competition. Field experiments demonstrated a significant decline in the growth rate of competing colonies compared to noncompeting control colonies; the growth rate slowed in all of the interacting individuals, irrespective of their place in the hierarchy of the intraspecific dominance or of their color morph. In case of immediate killing of the subordinate, the dominant colony grew at a normal rate. In addition to the marked decrease in the growth rate of interacting colonies, the typical symmetry shape of these colonies was changed to an abnormal growth form. The number of female gonads per polyp was significantly reduced in colonies competing intraspecifically, and the typical synchrony in reproduction among different branches of a given colony was changed and desynchronized. Again, these results did not correlate with the hierarchy of dominance. We conclude that intraspecific competition in reef corals involves great investment of energy. The ecological significance and the different pathways of this competition are discussed.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics