Reciprocal transplant experiments of the corals Pocillopora eydouxi Milne Edwards & Haime and Porites lobata Dana were carried out for an 18-month period from September 2004 to March 2006 between two back reef pools on Ofu Island, American Samoa, to test environmental versus genetic effects on skeletal growth rates. Skeletal growth of P. eydouxi showed environmental but not genetic effects, resulting in doubling of growth in Pool 300 compared with Pool 400. There were no environmental or genetic effects on skeletal growth of P. lobata. Pool 300 had more frequent and longer durations of elevated seawater temperatures than Pool 400, characteristics likely to decrease rather than increase skeletal growth. Pool 300 also had higher nutrient levels and flow velocities than Pool 400, characteristics that may increase skeletal growth. However, higher nutrient levels would be expected to increase skeletal growth in both species, but there was no difference between the pools in P. lobata growth. P. eydouxi is much more common in high-energy environments than P. lobata; thus the higher flow velocities in Pool 300 than in Pool 400 may have positively affected skeletal growth of P. eydouxi while not having a detectable effect on P. lobata. The greater skeletal growth of P. eydouxi in Pool 300 occurred despite the presence of clade D zooxanthellae in several source colonies in Pool 300, a genotype known to result in greater heat resistance but slower skeletal growth. Increased skeletal growth rates in higher water motion may provide P. eydouxi a competitive advantage in shallow, high-energy environments where competition for space is intense.
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Vol. 62 • No. 1