Coral Early Life History and Climate Change Impacts

elkhorn coral spawning
Tiny pink egg/sperm bundles being released from an elkhorn coral branch
Photo Credit: SEFSC

elkhorn coral spawning collection
Diver securing a collector over an elkhorn coral expected to spawn in a few hours. The released bundles are buoyant and float into a jar at the top of the collector.
Photo Credit: SEFSC

Spawning, enhancing larval success, OA experiments, and genetic collaborations related to climate change (2002-ongoing)

Most important reef-building coral species reproduce by releasing their eggs and sperm into the water column, a strategy known as "broadcast spawning." This requires several microscopic, vulnerable life history stages (fertilization and larval development) to occur in the open ocean environment. Generally, spawning events happen only one or a few nights per year and as coral populations have declined, the successful production of larvae to replenish imperiled populations is a serious concern.

This project is characterizing spawning success for two imperiled Caribbean coral species (Acropora palmata and Montastraea faveolata) in the Florida Keys. We collect gametes and culture the larvae in the lab which allows us to conduct experiments to better understand factors that may enhance the likelihood of larvae successfully settling and surviving to adults and the likely impacts of current and future global environmental changes (warming and acidification) on these vulnerable early life stages of corals.
We coordinate spawning observations and larval culture with a network of researchers working throughout the Caribbean, including academic researchers and professional aquarists from public zoos and aquaria (see links below)

This work is funded by the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program and the Mote Marine Lab "Protect our Reefs" programexit arrow icon

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