ABSTRACT: In addition to experimental studies, computational models provide valuable information about colony development in scleractinian corals. Using our simulation model, we show how environmental factors such as nutrient distribution and light availability affect growth patterns of coral colonies. To compare the simulated coral growth forms with those of real coral colonies, we quantitatively compared our modelling results with coral colonies of the morphologically variable Caribbean coral genus Madracis. Madracis species encompass a relatively large morphological variation in colony morphology and hence represent a suitable genus to compare, for the first time, simulated and real coral growth forms in three dimensions using a quantitative approach. This quantitative analysis of three-dimensional growth forms is based on a number of morphometric parameters (such as branch thickness, branch spacing, etc.). Our results show that simulated coral morphologies share several morphological features with real coral colonies (M. mirabilis, M. decactis, M. formosa and M. carmabi). A significant correlation was found between branch thickness and branch spacing for both real and simulated growth forms. Our present model is able to partly capture the morphological variation in closely related and morphologically variable coral species of the genus Madracis.
Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 12/2010; 277(1700):3555-61. · 5.41 Impact Factor