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Coral spawning 2012 27 Apr 2012

Posted by cat64fish in Tales from the N2 bar.

The corals were at it again … mass spawning that is. Two years after the last El Nino bleaching, the mass spawners seem to have recovered from their ordeal and were popping up sperm and egg packets in an almost never-ending stream of orgiastic delight. Over three nights, researchers from NUS and NParks visited the Pulau Satumu reef to observe and document this event.

The conditions were almost perfect – there was almost no wind, waters were calm, and visibility was good (averaging about 4m). The sunsets before each dive were spectacular!

Sunset 1

Sunset 2

Sunset 3

The first night saw sporadic puffs of egg packets – nothing spectacular. The second night was more exciting – the first corals started spawning around 8.30pm, comprising mostly faviids, one or two Galaxeas, and a rare observation of a Diploastrea colony spawning – hard to miss, since it squirted its hard-to-see spawn into a researchers face! On the final night of our voyeuristic observations, even more corals spawned; it was a good thing there were 7 of us on the reef, which enabled us to not only capture multiple colonies spawning, but also to capture the entire spawning sequence of some colonies.

A Favites coral showing signs of “setting” (just prior to the release of the gametes, you can see the orange-coloured bundles rising to the mouth of the corallite).

Shortly after setting, the gametes are released; in this case, as an “explosion” of orange-coloured balls.

Other species, such as this Pectinia, release their spawn as irregularly-shaped lumps or strings.

The total of number of species that spawned during our observations is still being tallied, and will contribute to a world-wide effort to better document these events. Hopefully we gathered enough information for a small paper to written (I’ll update if there is one).

More images and videos can be found on my Flickr Coral spawning 2012 set.



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