Coral reefs bursting to go

Courier Mail, November 22nd

HERE is a chance for you to experience one of the planet’s most spellbinding natural spectacles. Within a few days, in the reefs around the Keppels, off Rockhampton and in the Capricorn Cays of the southern Great Barrier Reef, the annual spawning of coral is expected to take place.

After the bleaching of the corals in January and February in 2006, last summer’s spawning effort was half-hearted. “This year. they’re bursting to go,” said Central Queensland University coral ecologist Alison Jones. “If people can get to a reef and in the water between the 24th (tomorrow) and the 28th, about 7pm-7.30pm, they’ll have a good chance of seeing it happen.”

In a synchronised exercise, corals liberate millions of eggs on still nights, after a full moon, when the tides are not so strong, the water temperature is right, and there’s less chance of the eggs being swept away before fertilisation.

As a prelude to the spawning, reef life, little fish and shrimps become wildly agitated. Then, small pink balls can be seen bulging from the polyp mouths of the corals.

“They glow pink,” Jones explained. “Everything around the reef gets very excited and you know it will happen within half an hour.” (Read More)

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