Int. J. Dev. Biol. 47: 433 - 438 (2003)
© UPV/EHU Press

Allogeneic interactions in Hydractinia: is the transitory chimera beneficial?

Sharon Gild, Uri Frank and Ofer Mokady

The Institute for Nature Conservation Research, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel.

ABSTRACT The colonial marine hydroid, Hydractinia, exhibits four possible outcomes to allogeneic contacts: passive rejection, aggressive rejection, stable fusion and transitory fusion. In the special case of transitory fusion, Hydractinia colonies undergo tissue fusion, followed by tissue death at the original contact area, and colony separation. This type of rejection is different in several aspects from the rejection process that accompanies incompatible encounters. It has been suggested that in transitory fusion, the colonies gain immediate benefits from fusion, mainly due to size increase, without succumbing to costs associated with fusion (germ line parasitism). We report a long-term observation of repeated fusion and separation cycles in clones featuring transitory fusion that revealed a slow-down of specific growth rates following fusion, and recovery in growth rates following separation. Very rapid transfer of stained material between partners in transitory chimeras provides suggestive evidence that protection against germ line parasitism is far from being guaranteed by separation. Our data cast doubt as to whether the benefits considered for transitory fusion are sustainable and support the already made suggestion that fusion with self, rather than fusion with kin, has been the major selective force governing the evolution of allorecognition in colonial invertebrates.