Covering South Florida’s environment over the past two decades, Kevin Lollar has seen some really cool stuff, and at the top of the list is coral spawning in the Keys,a she reports in this article for news-press.com.
Among the coral species that spawned while I was diving with researchers from the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, Mote Marine Laboratory and University of Florida in August 2006 and 2007 was mountainous star coral, one of five Caribbean coral species listed this week as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also listed pillar coral, rough cactus coral, lobed star coral and boulder star coral, as well as 15 Indo-Pacific coral species.
Two other Caribbean coral species, elkhorn and staghorn, were listed as threatened in 2006.
“The Caribbean corals are already protected in the sanctuary and by state laws, but the ESA affords additional protections,” NOAA coral expert Stephania Bolden said. “For example, people are not allowed to import listed species. Also, the ESA requires other federal agencies to consult with us on projects so as not to jeopardize the species, and the ESA makes federal dollars available to partner with the state for conservation and research efforts.”
So, here’s what’s so cool about coral spawning.
Every August, a few nights after the full moon, corals reproduce by releasing gametes (packets of eggs and sperm) into the water; the problem is you don’t know which night or what time spawning will be.
When the spawning does occur, millions of pink gametes rise toward the surface, where they burst, and sperm from one coral colony fertilize eggs from another colony.
After the 2006 spawning event, Billy Causey, Southeast Regional Director for the National Marine Sanctuary Program, described it as “an upside-down pink snow storm.”
It’s a spectacular sight, but pink snow isn’t the only show.
Thousands of small fish zig and zag a few feet above the reef, feeding on the rising gametes; above them, hundreds of barracuda wait for their chance to eat the little fish.
On the nights I was there, this activity took place in the eerie illumination of a dozen dive lights as some researchers shot photographs and video while others collected gametes for research.
All in all, coral spawning is an extraordinary experience (if you ever get the chance, check it out); as NOAA coral expert Laurie MacLaughlin said:
“The reef goes crazy. It’s a darting mass of mayhem, such a circus, with a great cast of characters.”
Scat: Where it’s at
Who doesn’t like a little scatological poetry now and then?
Chaucer, Shakespeare, Jonson, Dryden and Swift all got into it.
To that august literary company we can now add biologists and interns at the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, who have written “A Scat Poem” to teach folks what a bear and other wildlife do in the woods; and, of course, there’s a video, which you can link to at news-press.com.
For the original report go to http://www.news-press.com/story/life/outdoors/2014/08/28/feds-list-caribbean-coral-species-threatened/14772531/