Coral reefs are one of the most productive and diverse ecosystems on Earth. However, climate warming is occurring at an unprecedented rate and has negatively affected coral reefs worldwide. Evaluating the life history of reef-building species carries important implications for coral reef conservation. This chapter examines the taxonomy, biogeography, ecology, symbiosis, morphology and reproductive biology of Millepora hydrocorals, an important but relatively unstudied component of coral reefs. An emphasis is also placed on the influence of variable reef environments on Millepora life history traits, providing a fascinating opportunity to study the interplay between ecology and evolution. Special attention is given to ecological and evolutionary benefits of asexual versus sexual reproduction in the maintenance of genetic and phenotypic diversity. Lastly, this chapter discusses whether life-history strategies of Millepora hydrocorals and tolerance to different stressors can influence their ability to adapt and survive to future climate change, and other natural and anthropogenic disturbances.
Part of the book: Invertebrates