Mushroom corals change from male to female and back again

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Friday, April 3, 2009

Fungia scutaria, a type of Musroom Coral

In a recent discovery by researchers at Tel Aviv University, it has been determined that Mushrooms Corals (Fungiidae) can change sex from male to female and back again female to male.

It was in 2004 that scientists had collected two species of Mushroom Corals near Japan and tagged them. They were kept in a lab until after the full moon when then would send out sperm or eggs in gamete explosions. Mushroom corals were classified as male or female. The corals were returned to the sea and researchers repeated the laboratory experiment in 2006 and 2007.

The gamete explosions on tagged mushroom corals revealed that the corals had changed sex. In 2006, 75% of the corals had changed sex, and in 2007, 80% of the corals had changed sex, some returning back to the original sex they had been tagged with.

"No one reported before on the fact that some coral species may change sex. I believe this was quite a big surprise to all coral reef scientists," said lead author Yossi Loya, a zoologist at Tel Aviv University.

"We never realised in our wildest dreams that these corals can undergo sex changes. This is really exciting." said Professor Robert van Woesik, marine biologist at the Florida Institute of Technology.