Reef-aggregating behaviour by symbiotic eunicid polychaetes from cold-water corals: do worms assemble reefs?

J Murray Roberts

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    36 Citations (Scopus)


    In the north-cast Atlantic, the dominant reef-framework forming coral species, Lophelia pertusa and Madrepora oculata, form a symbiotic association with the polychaete worm Eunice norvegica. The polychaetecoral symbiosis was studied by visually observing and photographing live animals in aquaria over many months and using time-lapse video under infra-red lighting to record activity patterns. The polychaetes act as reef aggregating agents by joining coral colonies and enhancing the development of reef patches in deep water. The symbiosis was investigated using samples collected from a relatively shallow site in a Norwegian fjord and from a deeper open ocean site in the Porcupine Seabight. The potential functional roles of this symbiosis are considered. The reef aggregating behaviour of the polychacte symbiont allied with the ability of the coral host to anastomose its branches, the polychaete tubes and debris falling onto the reef structure will help to shift the balance between reef growth and (bio) erosion in favour of growth.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)813-819
    Number of pages7
    JournalJournal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2005

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