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Under Light of the Moon: Spectacular Phenomena of Coral Reproduction Triggered by Lunar Light

Source: Hakai Magazine/Ferris Jabr - June 15, 2017 in Science/Tech

Under Light of the Moon: Spectacular Phenomena of Coral Reproduction Triggered by Lunar Light
Image: NASA/Wikimedia Commons (CC0)

One November night each year, beneath the full moon, more than 130 species of corals simultaneously spawn in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Some corals spew plumes of sperm, smoldering like underwater volcanoes. Others produce eggs. But most release both eggs and sperm, packed together in round, buoyant bundles as small as peppercorns and blushed in shades of pink, orange, and yellow. At first, the parcels wait in the lips of corals. Then, in stunning unison, numerous corals lose their seeds, which hover momentarily above their parents, preserving the shape of the reef in an effervescent echo. Gradually, the bundles drift skyward.

The first time marine biologist Oren Levy witnessed this phenomenon, in 2005, he was near Heron Island, off the east coast of Australia. Fish, marine worms, and various predatory invertebrates zipped through the water, feeding on the coral confetti, which rose slowly from the reef in huge quantities.

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