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Wetlands and Aquatic Research Center - Florida
Cruise Log: 9/23/2009
Deep water corals spawn in the Gulf of Mexico
Scientists know quite a lot about the reproductive cycles of shallow tropical corals, but very little is known for most deep water species. Data from previous cruises indicated that Lophelia should spawn sometime during late September and early October, so for the past few dives we have been collecting samples of Lophelia coral in the hopes that they would release their eggs and sperm, and ultimately produce larvae to study. The cruise was coming to an end and it looked as if we might be out of luck, but this morning when I checked the coral tanks, I noticed the water was cloudy - an indication that the male colony had spawned, and sure enough, there were eggs in there too! This was exciting since it is the first record ever of spawning for Lophelia in US waters. Later this afternoon, a male colony spawned again, and this time we were there to witness the event. The next challenge is to maintain the embryos and larvae through their development so we can begin to learn how long they live, how they behave and how they respond to different environments. There is still much to learn, but this is a great start, and a fantastic end to the cruise.
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