PerspectiveCorals

Coral spawning, unsynchronized

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Science  06 Sep 2019:
Vol. 365, Issue 6457, pp. 987-988
DOI: 10.1126/science.aay7457

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Summary

During annual mass spawning events, hundreds of corals release millions of egg–sperm bundles in a coordinated manner. Underwater, the reef appears awash in a blizzard of pink snowflakes, but instead of falling, they rise to the surface, resulting in a slick of eggs that has even been seen from space. Mass spawning helps to overcome the dilution that is an ever-present challenge to fertilization for free-spawning marine species. It provides high gamete densities to ensure fertilization (1) while swamping gamete predators (2). However, the reproductive coordination of corals may be breaking down. On page 1002 of this issue, Shlesinger and Loya (3) compared four recent years of coral spawning observations to data collected from the same reef in the Red Sea 30 years before. They show that three of five species exhibited spawning asynchrony in recent years relative to earlier observations at the same site.

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