How to structure a complex body plan

Jul 25, 2007

Phenotypic flexibility enables multicellular organisms to adjust morphologies to variable environmental challenges. Such plastic variations are also documented in reef corals. Coral colonies are made of multiple genetically identical physiologically integrated modules (polyps).

Like other sedentary colonial marine organisms, corals may generate extremely broad structures, changing their morphologies by growing new polyps above existing structures. In branching forms, two higher levels of organization exist, the ‘branch’ and the ‘colony’. Despite the relative morphological simplicity of each module, branching corals can generate complex architectures at the colony level of organization.

In a study published in the July 25 issue of the online, open-access journal PLoS ONE, a group of scientists led by Dr. Rinkevich from the National Institute of Oceanography, Haifa, and Tel Aviv University, Israel, elucidated fixed and plastic architectural rules for colony formation in a common branching coral (Stylophora pistillata) from Eilat, the Red Sea, which develops spherical colonies.

The scientists examined 16 morphometric parameters on 136 one-year old colonies, all developed from different types of isolated branches, and found that the plastic morphometric characters are associated with the branch level whereas the fixed, predetermined morphometric traits are associated to the colony level.

In addition, the group found that, depending on the original branch structure, the spherical 3-D colonial architecture in this species is achieved by joining developmental processes at both, the branch and the colony levels of organization. In nature, branching colonial forms are often subjected to harsh environmental conditions that break the colony into fragments of different size and structure. Plastic developmental rules that are not predetermined and react to fragment structure allow the formation of species-specific architecture through variable developmental routes. This adaptive plasticity, or regeneration, is an efficient mechanism by which isolated fragments of branching coral species cope with external environmental forces.

Source: Public Library of Science

Explore further: Warning coloration paved the way for louder, more complex calls in certain species of poisonous frogs

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Russia turns back clocks to permanent Winter Time

6 hours ago

Russia on Sunday is set to turn back its clocks to winter time permanently in a move backed by President Vladimir Putin, reversing a three-year experiment with non-stop summer time that proved highly unpopular.

UN climate talks shuffle to a close in Bonn

6 hours ago

Concern was high at a perceived lack of urgency as UN climate negotiations shuffled towards a close in Bonn on Saturday with just 14 months left to finalise a new, global pact.

Microsoft beefs up security protection in Windows 10

11 hours ago

What Microsoft users in business care deeply about—-a system architecture that supports efforts to get their work done efficiently; a work-centric menu to quickly access projects rather than weather readings ...

New iPad cellular models have Apple SIM flexibility

Oct 19, 2014

Cellular-enabled iPad models are under a new paradigm, said AppleInsider, regarding the Apple SIM. Apple's newest iPad models with cellular connectivity use a SIM card which tech sites said could eventually ...

Comet Siding Spring whizzes past Mars (Update)

Oct 19, 2014

A comet the size of a small mountain and about as solid as a pile of talcum powder whizzed past Mars on Sunday, dazzling space enthusiasts with the once-in-a-million-years encounter.

Recommended for you

Cat dentals fill you with dread?

Oct 24, 2014

A survey published this year found that over 50% of final year veterinary students in the UK do not feel confident either in discussing orodental problems with clients or in performing a detailed examination of the oral cavity ...

User comments : 0