Colonies of the Japanese red coral Corallium japonicum Kishinouye, 1903 collected off Cape Ashizuri, Japan were gonochoric and produced gonads in siphonozooids annually, mainly during the spring season. Polyp anatomy, gonadal morphology and gametogenesis in this species were revealed by light and electron microscopy. A siphonozooid had a pharynx with a prominent siphonoglyph and eight mesenteries: two sulcal, two asulcal, and four lateral. A rudimentary retractor was found on one side of each mesoglea of these mesenteries. The retractor arrangement in the siphonozooid was reverse of what was described in the autozooids of octocorals. Gonads initiated as small protrusions on the mesenteries, except in the asulcal ones, and even at an incipient stage they were covered with a sac-shaped thin layer of mesoglea, which was continuous with the mesoglea of mesenteries. Gastrodermis enveloped the complete outer surface of the thin layer of mesoglea throughout gametogenesis in both oocytes and sperm cysts. Oocytes produced many microvilli on their cortical surfaces beneath the thin layer of mesoglea concomitantly with the accumulation of lipid globules in the cells, whereas in sperm cysts spermatocytes and spermatids increased in number without microvilli production, followed by synchronous spermiogenesis involving remarkable changes in the shape and position of organelles. Based on the comparison of patterns in gonadal development between octocorals including C. japonicum, hexacorals and scyphozoans, octocoral and stauromedusa species may be characterized by the fact that gametogenesis never occurs in the matrix of mesoglea, but rather exclusively within the thin sac of mesoglea surrounded by gastrodermis.
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Vol. 33 • No. 3