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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“I’m related to the beautiful Fire Coral, but without its fiercesome sting!”
The California Hydrocoral has many brilliant color variations, including a
The California Hydrocoral Stylaster californicus grows in many different formations. They can have tangled and dense networks of brittle branches or have pointed tip and delicate lace-like formations. They have a variety of colors from orange to purple and pinkish purple, and these are most attractive on a smooth surface.
These corals can be arborescent (tree-like) or encrusting on occasion, but generally are more delicately laced branches which grow on the same plane. Stylaster corals have smooth surfaces with thick tissue. Most of their common colors come in orane, white, yellow, purple, and pink with white margins. Their colors are known for being quite bright. Other names the California Hydrocoral goes by include just the Hydrocoral, the Fire Coral, the Lace Coral, and the Rose Lace Coral… Read More
Giant Sun Polyp
“I’m the largest button polyp out there, with a small bit of sunshine too!”
The Giant Sun Polyp is the biggest Zoanthid with its large oral disc!
The Giant Sun Polyp Protopalythoa grandis, is also called a Zoanthid. It is one of the very attractive button polyps. Their colors include white, green, and brown mottling. Iridescent coloring is also not uncommon, with occasional striations which look similar to wagon wheels. The Giant Sun Polyp is considered to be one of the largest Zoanthid species, just like most of the other Protopalythoa genus. Because this polyps oral disc can reach up to 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter, this polyp is actually thought to be the largest one of all.
In fact, it is not completely agreed upon as to whether the Giant Sun Polyp belongs to the Protopalythoa genus or the Palythoa genus. Originally they belonged to the Palythoa genus, but were later switched to the Protopalythoa genus because of their growth form. But now there are experts believing they should go back to the Palythoa genus and consider them to be. The scientific community has not yet settled completely on one or the other… Read More
“What’s the best way to have a blast?… Consider adding a Blasto Coral to your aquarium!”
The Blasto Coral is a unique coral and is popular among aquarists!
The Blasto Coral is one of the Blastomussa Corals and they have many color variations. The Blasto Coral Blastomussa wellsi is actually one of two Blastomussa corals that many people like. The other one is the Pineapple Coral Blastomussa merleti.
Most people actually prefer the The Blasto Coral B. wellsi over the B. merleti because it can be aquacultured into many colors – such as purple, green, pink, red, yellow and occasionally blue, as well as a many combinations of these colors. But it does have downfalls, such as being more difficult to care for and maintain. This coral also goes by the names Open Brain Coral, Swollen Brain Coral, Wellsi’s Brain Coral, Blastomussa Coral, Big Pipe Blastomussa, Pineapple Coral, and Blastomussa Wellsi… Read More
“This is a sea mat type of button coral! They form clusters of polyps on “mats” of sand!”
Moon Polyps received their name from the way their clusters of polyps appear –
in the shape of half moons!
The Moon Polyps Palythoa sp., are called by other names as well, including Encrusting Anemones, Sea Mats, and Zoanthid Button Polyps. They are actually colonial anemones and are fairly common in home reef aquariums. This genus alone, however, has lots of variety. They have polyps which are partially embedded in a mat and are quite short. Every polyp has flat discs that are covered with tentacles on their rims. Some species have tentacles which are very long and thin while others are knobby and short. Colors range from white, yellow, brown, cream, coffee, or yellow!
Palythoa sp. have a “mat” called the coenenchyma which connects the polyps. These polyps have little parts of sand and/or sediment that they use in the mat to make it more stiff and easier to support a colony. These extra bits of sand and sediment which make up the debris account for about 45% of the weight. The colonies grow in half-moon shapes (convex) and grow anywhere from 4″ to 12″ (10 – 30 cm) in diameter… Read More
Corky Sea Finger
“This coral actually gets its shape by growing on and over other Gorgoninas – which makes him more “quirky” than corky!”
The Corky Sea Finger reproduces easily and is quite easy to care for – making it a great
The Corky Sea Finger Briareum asbestinum, also goes by the name of the Purple Corky Finger. It is quite beautiful and has a finger shape, which is helped formed because it actually grows over and on other gorgonian species. These Gorgonians thrive in many conditions and are native to areas all over the Western Atlantic Ocean, including pristine and clean waters as well as more nutrient rich areas of water. They most often inhabit knee deep shallow waters. These corals are extremely popular and are collected more often than any other species. Other names this species goes by include the Purple Corky Finger, the Caribbean Corky Finger, the Moss Coral, the Deadman’s Finger, and the Sea Stalk Briareum.
These Gorgonians have another neat quality – if they have green tentacles with a purple base, then they have a fantastic glow when kept unter actinic lighting! The mat of the Corky Sea Finger is usually tan or purplish and gray with calyces that are basically just nubs and which are slightly raised… Read More
“What looks like a head of Romaine lettuce, but feels like a rock? You got it…me!”
The Leaf Coral is another coral which makes a great beginner coral!
The Leaf Coral Pavona decussata is attractive and has a frilled appearance. Quite like the Cactus Coral P. cactus, it has upright and flat fronds but they are thicker and not quite as twisted looking. Horizontal plates can also be formed. It has a surface that looks spiked due to tentacles that are spindly and pointed. Colors come in anything from brown, to green, to yellow cream. Other names for the Leaf Coral are the Frilly Coral, the Lettuce Coral, and the Cactus Coral. Other specimens of the Leaf Coral that have been aquacultured have names such as Green Pavona Decussata, Green Decussata, or Pavona Sp.
The genus which this Leaf Coral belongs to, the Pavona genus, typically has corals with small polyps stony (SPS) and are best for starting aquariums with. They do best with strong currents and high lighting but can also thrive in more moderate conditions… Read More
Palm Tree Polyps
“How about a grove of palm trees in your reef aquarium? This beauty can do just that!”
The Palm Tree Polyps are an easy to care for and beautiful coral!
The Palm Tree Polyps C. viridis is named after the way it looks – like a palm tree! Actually, its tentacles look like palm fronds and each one is surrounded by what is called a pinnule or feathery looking structure. The coloring varies and can include yellow, green or tan in different areas. Other names the Palm Tree Polyps are called are Fern Polyps and Clove Polyps.
Out of the many Clove Polyps, the Palm Tree Polyps is only one! The polyps are contained within unlayered flat stolons that are connected and housed in a structure that reminds you of mesh. These corals are mat-like and encrust. The mats as well can be a variety of colors – including gray, tan or brown. The tubular calyces that house the polyps are small – only 0.5 to 2 inches tall (1 to 5 cm). The size depends on the species. There are a total of 8 tentacles, which again come in a variety of colors! White, brown, purple, green, yellow, and pink with possibly a combination of contrasting colors. Also, if needed the polyps have a base that allows complete retraction… Read More
Idaho Grape Montipora
“Can you guess what I am and where I’m from? I’m purple, but I am NOT a grape, and I’m NOT from Idaho!”
The Idaho Grape Montipora is a popular, very wanted, and expensive coral!
The Idaho Grape Montipora Montipora undata is an SPS (small polyp stony). It has beautiful colors and actually has not been assigned an “official” name. It is often called an “Idaho Grape” because of its common purple colors. Other colors it comes in are green, pink or brownish. It has contrasting polyps which are usually pink, brown, white and/or rust-colored. It is considered an aquacultured coral.
The M. undata is most often in digitat form or branching. The growth variations include vertical to horizontal tubes or plates, with the branches and columns growing fairly thick. Mature colonies are the best ones to observe these variations.
This Montipora is more of an intermediate coral in terms of care but is not as likely to get the typical diseases common to Acropora corals or to bleach. The biggest consideration is the temperature it’s kept at, and lighting and water movement are not quite as important… Read More
Organ Pipe Coral
“Want a little music in your reef tank? Check out the awesome ‘red pipes’ on this Pipe Organ Coral!”
The Organ Pipe Coral actually resembles and organ with its unique red calcite tubes!
The Organ Pipe Coral Tubipora musica is not a stony coral, but a unique soft coral. Similar to the Green Star Polyps Pachyclavularia violacea, this coral has mat polyps and is a member of the Tubiporidae Family. Only one other type of the Octocorals has an external skeleton that calcifies like the Organ Pipe Coral, and that is the Blue Coral or Blue Fire Coral Heliopora coerulea. They both have actual colorful skeletons – red and blue!… Read More