Stories tagged mass reproduction

Apr
20
2008

Palau reef: where the party gets started
Palau reef: where the party gets startedCourtesy zolas box
Over the next few days, the Palau reef in the West Pacific will experience a frenzy of activities as the reefs' coral denizens partake in their annual mating ritual. Although there won't be any of the usual Spring Break antics such as wet t-shirt or bikini contests, excessive drinking, or stupid male shenanigans, one thing there will be is lots and lots of rampant reproduction.

Just after sunset tonight, or perhaps tomorrow or maybe even the next night, billions upon billions of the coral colonies' eggs and sperm will be unleashed in cute little orange and pink packages that will rise to the surface where they'll lose their inhibitions, burst open, dance and intermingle under the moonlight, and develop into billions of coral larvae. If conditions are right the sheer number of the event's participants can sometimes form huge slicks on the surface that can be seen from space. In the end most of the spawn or larvae gets eaten before it develops fully, but since there's so many of them in the first place, it doesn't really matter.

Anyway, a few days later, any surviving coral larvae will float exhausted to the sea bottom in hopes of attaching themselves to some good solid structure where they develop into baby coral polyps, thus adding more coral to the reef, and living happily ever after. Sounds wonderful, doesn't it?

The 300 island archipelago making up the republic of Palau is located 155 miles above the equator about 550 miles east of the Philippines. The reefs in the vicinity are in good condition ecologically, but the annual spawning has attracted scientists from Great Britain, Australia, and the Philippines, who are in Palau to gather "seeding" material for other less fortunate coral reefs.

The research team won't be using spawning material from the open reefs but instead will harvest it from pieces of coral they've collected and keep in a controlled laboratory environment at the Palau International Coral Reef Center. The larvae from the experiment are then transplanted into a suitable environment conducive to reef-building.

With many of the world's coral reef environments suffering from the effects of pollution, over-fishing, and other factors, the researchers hope seeding damaged reefs with the harvested spawn from healthier ones will help restore the fragile ecosystems.

STORY SOURCE
BBC website