Making Babies! Once a Year Coral Spawn Event

October 5, 2013 by  
Filed under All Posts, Animal News, Corals Mini-Reef

Tenting a Staghorn Coral Acropora cervicornis
All Photos included here courtesy Richard Ross
California Academy of Sciences

The Octo Mom pales in comparison to the Florida Keys Coral Spawn

An event that happens just once a year yet results in hundreds of thousands of babies. Imagine have just one such happening to produce all the offspring you could ever want! That’s the annual spawning of Elkhorn, Staghorn and other corals off the Florida Keys.

For just a short period of time each year, by a phase of the moon, thirty thousand coral colonies or more are synced-up and driven to reproduce. This happens in August or September, usually just a few days after a full moon.

See exactly how corals spawn! The Coral Spawn video produced by NOAA Ocean Media Center

Now that type of baby making is enough to stir the envy of any mom, Octo or otherwise! Granted, there’s not the same type of physical interaction mammals have, making babies in the animal world. There’s no dating or marriage, nor ongoing obligations.

Coral parents never actually have sex, nor do the mothers (or fathers) then host and provide sustenance for the developing offspring. Rather corals are sessile invertebrates that spew their gametes (eggs and sperm) into the ocean’s water column in one mass spawning exchange.

Buoyant gamete bundles float about the water column until they meet up with gametes from neighboring colonies. Cross-fertilization, resulting is baby corals, is then a happen stance event.

Staghorn Coral Gamete Bundles
Acropora cervicornis

Coral Spawning, Gamete Bundles

Hundreds of thousands of fertilized gametes quickly evolve into coral planula, which soon becomes free-swimming larvae. A few days later they will begin making their way down to the reef. They will seek a suitable area to on the reef area to settle, attach and form polyps.

These polyps grow into beautiful new coral colonies, expanding the reef.

Coral spawning is a curious event similar to being in an upside down snowstorm. Tons of tiny little flakes begin swirling about. But corals only spawn at night, so to watch this wondrous “dance of the gametes”, it helps to be a scuba diver. It also helps to be experienced in diving at night so that you don’t miss any of this exciting event. This years spawning lasted for 4 consecutive days.

Elkhorn Coral Gamete Bundles
Acropora palmata

Restoration of Corals in the Florida Keys

The Coral Restoration Foundation (CRF), based in the Florida Keys, has been working to restore various threatened coral species. I had an opportunity to see some of their cultured specimens of staghorn corals just a few weeks ago at the SuperZoo trade show. Ken Nedimyer, president of the foundation, was very excited about their ongoing efforts in creating offshore coral nurseries, as well as an onshore lab for studying reproduction.

For this years spawning event, CRF joined with 8 other organizations from across the country. Representatives from Akron Zoo, California Academy of Science, Florida Aquarium, Mystic Seaquarium, NOAA, Seaworld and Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund joined with CRF to provide help and support. 25 people in all worked to collect spawn from the open waters as well as from selected staghorn specimens spawning in their lab.

Collecting Gamete Bundles
During a Coral Spawn

You and I, and everyone are invited to volunteer and participate in CRF dive programs to help plant specimens. Although the spawning season has passed until the fall of 2014, the restoration efforts are ongoing. The ultimate goal of CRF is to test the fertilization of selective gametes in an effort to propagate more resistant corals and help ensure their survival.

Clarice Brough is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.

Four Gorgeous Sea Turtles Returned to the Sea!

September 25, 2013 by  
Filed under All Posts, Animal News, Reptiles

Rescued sea turtles rehabilitated and returned home

Sea turtle rescues and releases are such an exciting adventure for people, perhaps because we are mostly land dwellers.

Yet it warms my heart, and I’m sure yours too, to learn about any type of pet and animal rescue.

The warmth and caring of people, for all the creatures in the animal world, never ceases to amaze me!

South Carolina Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Rescue Program

On a sunny September 13th, after treatment and revitalization at the “Sea Turtle Hospital” of the South Carolina Aquarium, four beautiful sea turtles were returned to their vast watery home. Parker, Dennis, Crosby and Skully were released at the Isle of Palms County Park, sent to rejoin with their cronies in the Atlantic Ocean.

South Carolina Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Rescue Program

At the season’s change, as the weather warms, sea turtles begin to move into the coastal waters. They are a threatened and endangered species, and are affected by the many pressing issues surrounding coastal development. Specimens can end up in a state of distress, injured, or sick. A caring individual will rescue them and see to it that the animal is delivered into the hands of the dedicated employees and volunteers at a rescue facility, like the South Carolina Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Rescue Program. There they are monitored and treated until they are well enough to be re-introduced into their natural habitat.

Green Sea Turtle Cosby

Four sea turtles released in September, 2013

Parker was a 5-pound juvenile Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle that was accidentally ensnared in a recreational fisherman’s net at the Myrtle Beach State Park Pier in June.

Dennis, another juvenile Kemp’s Ridley, had been rescued as a “cold stunned” turtle last winter. Crosby is a 9-pound juvenile green sea turtle that was found in April floating on the Folly River. Dennis was one of over 30 sea turtles that had been treated for cold-stunning in various rescue facilities.

The biggest of the group is Skully, a 70-pound juvenile Loggerhead. He was found in June, stranded on a sandbar.

Loggerhead Sea Turtle Skully

The South Carolina Aquarium’s first beach releases for 2013 started with 5 specimens on May 23rd, consisting of a Kemp’s Ridley, 2 Loggerheads and 2 Green Sea Turtles.

On July 31st at the same place 3 sea turtle’s were released; Sutton, another juvenile Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle, Raker another green sea turtle, and Splinter who’s a Loggerhead sea turtle.

Another seven sea turtles were released a month earlier on June 18th.

Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle Dennis

Prior to that, the South Carolina Aquarium participated in the Sea Turtle Trek for Florida Release held on April 12th.

They contributed two sea turtles to the Sea Turtle Trek, a 65-pound Loggerhead and a Green Sea Turtle. They joined with the New England Aquarium and the National Aquarium in Baltimore to release a total of 52 sea turtles into the ocean. The 52 turtles were loaded onto the US Coast Guard Cutter Fort Macon and transported to the Gulf Stream where they were released.

Other organizations involved were the University of New England at Biddeford, National Marine Life Center, and the Riverhead Foundation.

When you are out and about, keep a watchful eye out for sea turtles in distress. Depending on the local rules and regulations, you can either call the local authorities or rescues to come get the animal, or if allowed, you may be able to rescue the animal and transport it to a facility.

Clarice Brough is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.