Competitive interactions among zoanthids (cnidaria: zoanthidae) in an intertidal zone of northeastern Brazil

Emanuelle Fontenele Rabelo Marcelo de Oliveira Soares Helena Matthews-Cascon About the authors


Sessile organisms that live in consolidated substrates frequently compete for space. Coral species have many strategies to face this competition, including harming their opponents or hindering their growth. In the present study, the competitive interactions between three species of zoanthids were investigated in the intertidal zone of a sandstone reef environment in northeastern Brazil. The competitive abilities of the three species were evaluated by periodic observation of the natural fringes of contact and experimental evaluation of their growth rate through removal of 100 cm² of colonies of each species. Palythoa caribaeorum and Zoanthus sociatus had similar growth rates, and both species grew faster than Protopalythoa variabilis. The recolonization strategy seems to differ among species. The contact fringes between P. caribaeorum and Z. sociatus remained unchanged over time, without any type of aggressive interaction between them, suggesting that stand-off was the strategy used by these organisms. Palythoa caribaeorum and Z. sociatus grew among the polyps of P. variabilis, often killing its colonies. The coexistence of zoanthids reveals a capacity for survival in the face of competition for limited resources such as free substrate, which led to the colonization and establishment of zoanthids in intertidal environments.

Zoanthids; Competition; Growth rate; Coexistence

A competição por espaço é comum em organismos sésseis que vivem em substrato consolidado. Os corais apresentam muitas estratégias para competição por espaço, incluindo danos ao oponente ou inibição do crescimento. No presente estudo, as interações competitivas entre três espécies de zoantídeos foram investigadas em um ambiente de recifes de arenito no nordeste brasileiro. As habilidades competitivas dos zoantídeos foram analisadas por observações periódicas das margens de contato entre as colônias em ambiente natural e avaliação experimental da taxa de crescimento, através da remoção de uma área de 100 cm² de colônias de cada espécie. Palythoa caribaeorum e Zoanthus sociatus apresentaram taxa de crescimento similar, crescendo mais rápido que Protopalythoa variabilis. A estratégia de colonização parece ser diferente entre as espécies. As margens de contato entre P. caribaeorum e Z. sociatus permaneceram inalteradas ao longo do tempo, sem qualquer interação agressiva entre as colônias, sugerindo que a inibição do crescimento foi a estratégia utilizada. Palythoa caribaeorum e Z. sociatus cresceram entre os pólipos de P. variabilis, muitas vezes sufocando e matando suas colônias. A coexistência entre os zoantídeos revela uma capacidade de sobrevivência frente a recursos limitados, como substrato livre, o que levou ao sucesso na colonização e estabelecimento de zoantídeos em ambientes intertidais.

Zoantídeos; Competição; Taxa de crescimento; Coexistência

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Publication Dates

  • Publication in this collection
    17 Apr 2013
  • Date of issue
    Mar 2013


  • Received
    27 Aug 2012
  • Accepted
    04 Feb 2013
  • Reviewed
    03 Feb 2013
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