Rice Coral Spawning Success

After such disappointment with the Mushroom coral spawn, the Reef Recovery team was happy last weekend when by the non-light of the new moon, Montipora capitata, or rice coral spawned successfully.

A colony of Rice Coral, Montipora Capitata just off the dock at Coconut Island in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii. Photo by L. Grassman.

We were able to spawn these corals in floating pots in our outdoor tanks here on Coconut Island. The corals in the water around the island spawned heavily as well, so we collected egg/sperm bundles from both locations and were able to conduct our experiments.

Rice coral, like many corals around the world, release bundles of eggs and sperm packaged together. These bundles float up to the surface of the ocean where they break apart. They then have to find eggs or sperm from another colony, as they do not self-fertilize. For our work, this makes an added challenge as we have to break bundles apart ourselves to collect the sperm that is inside. If the bundles break too early, the sperm we need may end up too dilute for cryopreservation. Each step of our process has to be done at the right time and in a very particular manner to ensure that we are able to cryopreserve enough sperm. These rice coral here in Hawaii provide us with a unique opportunity to work out techniques like these before we head off to places like Belize, where we will be going in August, to work on endangered species there with similar egg/sperm bundle spawning strategies.

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