Mass Spawning and Reproductive Viability of Reef Corals at the East Flower Garden Bank, Northwest Gulf of Mexico
Mass spawning of three coral species that broadcast eggs and sperm into the water column (Diploria strigosa, Montastrea annularis, and M. cavernosa) was observed at the East Flower Garden Bank on 1 September 1991. Peak activity occurred after 2115, eight evenings following the August full moon. Minor spawning activity was noted on two occasions just prior to sunset, and on the day following mass spawning, as well as seven days following the July full moon. Reports of comparable mass spawning activity elsewhere in the Atlantic are lacking, but timing of the spawning was similar to that reported elsewhere in the field and in laboratory-maintained Atlantic corals. Gamete release behaviors varied between species at the Flower Gardens. Behaviors of hermaphroditic species included slow release of discrete gamete bundles (D. strigosa) and release of mucus- or sperm-mucus-bound eggs (M. annularis). Egg and sperm release by M. cavernosa, a dioecious species, was observed in separate colonies. Sperm was ejected forcefully. Eggs were released slowly. Mass spawning, together with data from coral recruitment studies showing routine reproduction by brooding corals, and recruitment of both broadcasters and brooders on nearby oil platforms, suggest the Flower Garden Banks harbor fully functional coral communities capable of self-seeding following disturbance and of supplying viable larvae for colonization of natural and artificial substrates.
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Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: 1992-11-01
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