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"Sex on the Reef" Recorded off India's Southwest Coast

Wildlife Trust of India scientist witnesses coral spawning during daylight hours.

March 27, 2013

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Coral spawning off India's southwest coast has been recorded for the first time around the Lakshadweep islands in the Laccadive Sea, according to biologist S. Subburaman of the Wildlife Trust of India who witnessed the event, known locally as sex on the reef. The event involves corals releasing eggs and sperm clouds over the reef, which rise to the surface to form a slick.

coral spawn
coral spawn

Subburaman was on the water near the reef when he noticed the shimmer on the water and collected pink and brown spawn to examine. With support from scientists Dr. Jasmine and R. Srinath with India's Central Marine Fisheries and Research Institute, they were able to confirm that the samples were indeed coral spawn. The findings show that the reef is recovering from stresses that occurred during the 2010 El Nino warm water event that occurred near the islands. The presence of coral spawn confirms that the coral atoll is healthy.

 “This comes at a time when a lot of pessimism surrounds the state of our corals, with talk of them getting bleached, their habitats being destroyed, global warming, sea levels rising and so on," said Dr. B.C. Choudhury, senior advisor for Wildlife Trust of India. "It is really a magnificent sight, and the team of scientists at Lakshadweep was really fortunate to witness it.”


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A survey of the region showed the coral larvae congregating around Agatti Island, Bangaram, Thinakara, and Kavarrati islands. Choudhury said that different species of corals spawned at different times of the day and noted that more research needs to be done to get a better understanding of the coral spawning process, especially in Lakshadweep, home to India's only coral atoll.

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