Like many coral species, Leptastrea transversa is zooxanthellate, which means that its tissues contain large numbers of single-celled algae called zooxanthellae. The coral and the algae have a symbiotic relationship, in which the algae gain a stable environment within the coral's tissues, while the coral receives nutrients produced by the algae through photosynthesis. By harnessing the sun's energy in this way, corals are able to grow rapidly and form vast reef structures, but are constrained to live near the water surface (3).
While, on average, zooxanthellate coral can obtain around 70 percent of its nutrient requirements from zooxanthellae photosynthesis, the coral may also feed on zooplankton (4). The polyps' tentacles, which in this species are extended during the night and sometimes during the day, contain stinging cells called “nematocysts”. These trap the drifting zooplankton, directing it into the central mouth, which also acts as an anus to excrete waste products after digestion (3) (4).
Leptastrea transversa is capable of asexual reproduction, in which the colony proliferates through the production of clones that bud from the individual polyps, and by sexual reproduction, in which the polyps spawn large numbers of sperm and eggs. The fertilised eggs develop into planktonic larvae, which travel through the water column, before settling and metamorphosing into sessile polyps (3) (5).