Sunday, September 16, 2007

Coral Spawning: Love on the Rocks

It was an hour after the sun set. The lights were off and the night was dark, save from the beams of the flashlights the group brought. We were at the Palau International Corral Reef Center (PICRC) and we needed the darkness to witness one of nature’s wonders- the birth of new corrals.

After a briefing, the group composed of students from different schools and interested individuals split into groups and headed for the tanks and the aquariums where corrals were about to spawn.
Many of us may take the corrals under the sea for granted but let’s take a closer look at how they maintain and produce their numbers in the years to come.

Corals are animals, and like all other life forms, must reproduce, says PICRC Education Department head Carol Emaurois.
She said that on the night of spawning, the flower-like polyps start to expand and the sperm packets move up towards the surface of the water where bright red or pink eggs gather.
Emaurois said that the coral eggs and sperm intermingle at the surface of the water and if the combination is right, fertilization will take place.
Emaurois said that for two years, they dived and studied and learned more about coral spawning and how the corrals replenish their numbers. She said that their observations showed that spawning takes place usually six or seven days after a full moon.

“The approximate spawning periods in Palau are March, April, May, and September. Corrals from the other parts of Micronesia, Guam and Hawaii spawn on different months when it’s a lot warmer, ” Emaurois said.
We crowded around the transparent tank and marveled at the tiny specks of eggs and sperm slowly intermingling and forming a new life. Later, we left the PICRC armed with a new awareness that there’s more to learn about the corrals, and we were fortunate to witness one of the underwater wonders.

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