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: Researchers offer taphonomic degradation processes for mammalian hair

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

US company sells out of Ebola toys

2 hours ago

They might look tasteless, but satisfied customers dub them cute and adorable. Ebola-themed toys have proved such a hit that one US-based company has sold out.

UN biodiversity meet commits to double funding

3 hours ago

A UN conference on preserving the earth's dwindling resources wrapped up Friday with governments making a firm commitment to double biodiversity aid to developing countries by 2015.

Partial solar eclipse over the U.S. on Thursday, Oct. 23

3 hours ago

People in most of the continental United States will be in the shadow of the Moon on Thursday afternoon, Oct. 23, as a partial solar eclipse sweeps across the Earth. For people looking through sun-safe filters, from Los Angeles, ...

Recommended for you

Secret wing colours attract female fruit flies

1 hour ago

Bright colours appear on a fruit fly's transparent wings against a dark background as a result of light refraction. Researchers from Lund University in Sweden have now demonstrated that females choose a mate ...

Crowdsourced power to solve microbe mysteries

3 hours ago

University of New South Wales scientists hope to unlock the secrets of millions of marine microbes from waters as far apart as Sydney's Botany Bay and the Amazon River in Brazil, with the help of an international ...

Pigeons and people play the odds when rewards are higher

4 hours ago

(Phys.org) —If you were weighing the risks, would you choose to receive a guaranteed $100, or take a 50/50 chance of winning either $200 or nothing? Researchers at the University of Alberta have shown that ...

User comments : 0