Live blogging the annual coral spawning event across the Caribbean


So it’s that time of year again in the Caribbean where the corals undergo the annual mass spawn. Along with this ritual comes the coral researchers, who run a bunch of experiments with coral recruitment, settlement, fertilization, which involves catching coral sperm and eggs using nets (see above) and mixing it all up in jars (see pictures here – honestly, i’m not kidding). Spawning time is usually pretty hectic for all researchers, as it’s generally a once a year sort of affair to raise and settle the larvae, and gather data to write papers and justify the next funding round.

This year though, it seems that research groups have taken up blogging the whole affair blow by blow, which makes for some great photographs and intense reading. Here are five of the best are in no particular order. Comment below if I’ve missed anyone out, and special mention to Mary Alice Coffroth and the Burr Lab for some spectacular photos!, :

1. Acropora Spawn Blog – Eric Borneman, Alina Szmant, Jennifer Moore and others:

“We were watching 3 sites again last (Sunday) night and as you can see from the SCUBAnauts post, there was some spawning at Molasses Reef again. Although it was a good volume, it was unfortunately all one clone. Sand Island only saw a few bundles. One clone (same one as Saturday night) spawned even more than last night at Elbow Reef but all the other clones kinda sat around twiddling their tentacles. Oddly enough the same tiny patch of tissue in the picture from last night’s post had a few (but even fewer) bundles but that was it from the others. So for any hope of fertilization we had to high tail it home to meet up witht he gametes collected from Mollases. Talk about artificial insemination! Since Puerto Rico saw very little last night too, we are hoping that tonight will be ‘the night’ but we are getting tired of saying that!”


2. Coral Spawning 2009 – Baums Lab,  Puerto Rico

“Our corals spawned last night!  We’ve been working around the clock (literally), keeping our various crosses alive and sampling them at odd hours.  It’s a simple rotation:  +1 hour after fertilization, +4 hours after fertilization, etc., but when the corals spawn at 9:30 PM, suddenly you need to be up all night long.  Throw in water changes, tank refills, and microscope work, and none of us have had a moment to spare, or sleep!  In five minutes we’re heading out diving again.  We split up the group and sent half to Bajo Gullardo–an offshore site with huge palmata stands–in an effort to increase the diversity of our crosses.  Rest assured we’re getting what we came for.  More to follow…”


3. Coral Spawning 2009 – Baums Lab,  Curacao

“Yesterday was our 5th night of diving and our 5th attempt at gathering the amount of coral spawn needed to carry out our study. Despite a consistent showing from one of our target colonies we have been unable to collect enough from any of the others to generate the number of larvae needed. Using the small volumes of spawn we have collected over the past few nights we are seeing that the larvae rearing system we have developed is working very well.  Larvae from last night’s cross have advanced to the “cornflake” stage by 9am this morning and the larvae from 4 nights ago are already swimming happily in their kreisel. So, although we may not be able to run the full experiment this month in Curacao, with luck we should succeed in settling some larvae on tiles to plant back out on to the reef.”


4. Burr Lab – Long Key, Florida

“Spawning is not expected until Monday, but on Saturday the team went to Chica Rocks for a “practice” run of the spawning drill. This is a site with abundant heads of Montastreae faveolata. We arrived on the site at about 7 pm and jumped in the water to deploy the spawning tents. Then we returned to the boat to wait until dark. We enjoyed the evening breeze, watch the moon rise and discussed protocols on the boat until 10:00 to 10:30 and then return to the reef to check for spawning. The divers swam around for about an hour and then collected the tents and returned to the boat at 11:30. After an hour ride back to the lab, we quickly cleared up all of a gear and headed to bed. A great first night out and now we are ready!”


5. SECORE Weblog 2009 – Curacao

“During the day we take care of our coral babies. Some of them should be getting close to their swimming phase. Then the regular drill starts again. Prepare nets and diving equipment, have diner and take of to our dive sites. We do have a little lock up accident this evening. Someone did not seem to want Mitch to join in the fun… He got locked in in his room. After some running around for keys we manage to set him free. Luckily he won’t have to miss out on the last night of diving. We don’t know what to expect, but we keep on hoping for the best”


1 thought on “Live blogging the annual coral spawning event across the Caribbean

  1. sometimes when i read stories like those above, i smile, knowing that corals from all around the world are still trying to survive.. Whatever the scientists had done, i hope it’s simply for the future of coral reefs 🙂

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