Coral and Coral Spawning

You may already know that corals are in fact animals, even though they can look very similar to plants. Corals are colonies of myriad polyps and sessile. They root themselves to the ocean floor and stay put, slowly but surely building up their empire. They do...

You may already know that corals are in fact animals, even though they can look very similar to plants. Corals are colonies of myriad polyps and sessile. They root themselves to the ocean floor and stay put, slowly but surely building up their empire. They do not make their own food, like plants do. A coral polyp is a small sac-like animal with tiny, tentacle-like arms with which they capture their food from the water. Venomous stinging cells on their tentacles help to catch the food. The coral polyp’s menu includes microscopic zooplankton and small fish.

Corals live together with microscopic algae called ‘zooxanthellae’, which benefits both parties. These algae are plant-like organisms that live within the coral’s tissues. This offers them protection against predators. The algae use the coral’s metabolic waste products for photosynthesis, the process by which plants make their own food. In return, the corals benefit because the algae produce oxygen and remove waste, so that corals can grow, thrive, and build up the reef.

There are many types of hard and soft coral, in a myriad of colors and variants. The Coral Triangle, an area between Philippines, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands, is home to at least 500 types of coral, which amounts to 76% of all known coral species in the world. Nowhere in the world can you find more biodiversity of corals, fish and many other marine species. Six out of seven out of the world’s seven marine turtle species live in the Coral Triangle. The coral reefs are the biggest structures built by living animals on the planet, by a long stretch.

Coral Spawning

Once a year in late spring or early summer, depending on the moon, all coral polyps spawn at the same time. When this happens, the reef transforms into an underwater spectacle that looks like a snow blizzard, with billions of colorful flakes cascading in white, yellow, red, and orange. When a coral egg and sperm join together as an embryo, they develop into a coral larva, called a planula. Planulae float in the ocean for days or weeks, before dropping to the ocean floor. Then, depending on the seafloor conditions, the planulae may attach itself to the bottom and grow into a new coral colony at the incredibly slow rate of about 1 cm (0.4 in.) per year.

Once a year in late spring or early summer, depending on the moon, all coral polyps spawn at the same time. When this happens, the reef transforms into an underwater spectacle that looks like a snow blizzard, with billions of colorful flakes cascading in white, yellow, red, and orange. When a coral egg and sperm join together as an embryo, they develop into a coral larva, called a planula. Planulae float in the ocean for days or weeks, before dropping to the ocean floor. Then, depending on the seafloor conditions, the planulae may attach itself to the bottom and grow into a new coral colony at the incredibly slow rate of about 1 cm (0.4 in.) per year. Take a look at this spectacular event below.


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