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A pair of feathery Christmas tree shaped structures in the middle of a "snow storm" of coral egg bundles.  Each bundle is about the size of a BB.
A Christmas tree worm in the midst of a spawning colony of star coral in the Flower Garden Banks NMS on September 6, 2007.
Photo: FGBNMS Volunteer
The 2007 Spawning Cruise was actually divided into two trips this year. Due to a full moon late in July, it was suspected that some of the corals might spawn in early August, so researchers were present in the sanctuary from August 6-8. Indeed, there was some spawning, but not a lot. Recreational Scuba divers visiting the sanctuary later in the week also reported some spawning activity during their night dives.

The second spawning cruise took place September 3-7, when the major spawning event was expected. The mass coral spawning event occurred as predicted for the most part, although not as heavy a spawn as seen in previous years. In addition, some species observations were a little off typical predictions. For example, Colpophyllia natans spawned on both the 9th night as well as the predicted 10th night after the full moon.  Other spawning predictions for brittle stars, christmas tree worms and sponges were not observed in numbers as expected.  Predictions were made based on a full moon on August 28, 2007 at 1035 GMT (Greenwich Mean Time).

Hundreds of small white bundles, about the size of a BB, floating up from the reef and straight at the camera lens
A snowstorm of coral spawn on September 5, 2007.
Photo: FGBNMS Volunteer

Two lighter spawning events are not necessarily unusual when the full moons occur late in July and August, as they did this year.

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Additional Research Efforts

While coral spawning is a major focus of this late summer cruise each year, it's not the only item of interest. After all, most of the spawning activity takes place at night, which leaves a whole lot of daytime to accomplish other tasks. This year's cruise included research efforts from the following individuals:

Dr. Craig Burnside (Bainbridge College) - tag and survey queen conch

Emma Hickerson (FGBNMS) - retrieve and maintain acoustic receivers at all three banks

Dr. Misha Matz & John Williams (University of Texas) - observe flouresence of oceanic bioflora and collect permitted samples

Martha Robbart & Jeremy Marshall (PBS&J) - rephotograph West Flower Garden Bank photostations

Kevin Strychar (Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi) - collect permitted sponge samples

Dr. Peter Vize, Sarah Davies & Dan Hilton (University of Calgary) - observe coral spawning activities and collect permitted samples

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Spawning Observations

Water temperature at observation depth :  86F
Salinity at observation depth:  35.5PPT
Depth of observations:  approximately 75' to 80'

Some egg bundles still nestled in the grooves of a brain coral colony while others float upwards
A brain coral spawning in September 2007.
Photo: FGBNMS Volunteer

September 3, 2007 (7th night after the full moon)
2115 Orbicella (Montastraea) faveolata 1 colony
2120-2135 Pseudodiploria strigosa 2 colonies
2120-2130 Montastraea cavernosa 2 male colonies
2135 Montastraea cavernosa 1 female colony
2115-2135 Orbicella (Montastraea) franksi 13 colonies

September 4, 2007 (8th night after the full moon)
2000 gametes on surface
2115-2210 Orbicella (Montastraea) franksi 73 colonies
2118-2128 Montastraea cavernosa male 2 colonies
2115-2220 Pseudodiploria strigosa 58 colonies
2210-2045 Stephanocoenia intersepta 12 male colonies
2210-2045 Stephanocoenia intersepta 3 female colonies
2252-2310 Orbicella (Montastraea) faveolata 7 colonies
2333 Orbicella (Montastraea) annularis 1 colony

Other species:
2209 Spirobranchus giganticus christmas tree worms 4 male individuals
2209 Spirobranchus giganticus christmas tree worms 1 female individual

A close up view of coral polyps releasing their egg bundles.  Each polyp is about 1 cm across.
A close up view of a Montastraea franksi colony spawning in September 2007.
Photo: FGBNMS Volunteer

September 5, 2007 (9th night after the full moon)
2020-2130 Montastraea cavernosa 23 male colonies
2045-2132 Montastraea cavernosa 9 female colonies
2020-2200 Pseudodiploria strigosa 57 colonies
2120-2200 Orbicella (Montastraea) franksi 16 colonies
2020-2115 Colpophyllia natans 7 colonies
2201-2240 Stephanocoenia intersepta 19 male colonies
2215-2240 Stephanocoenia intersepta 16 female colonies

Other species:
2020-2100 Ophioderma squamosissimum 2 female brittlestars

September 6, 2007 (10th night after the full moon)
2026-2105 Colpophylla natans 23 colonies

Other species:
2015-2105 Ophioderma squamosissimum 6 male brittlestars
2020-2100 Ophioderma squamosissimum 6 female brittlestars

For general information about the annual mass coral spawning event, please visit our Coral Spawning page.

For summaries and reports from other spawning seasons, please use the links below.

2010 Coral Spawning

2009 Coral Spawning

2008 Coral Spawning

2006 Coral Spawning

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weather report observations cool stuff get wet

Orange, branching gorgonian (soft coral) anchored in a bed of sponges and other sea life.
National Marine Sanctuary logo - a stylized whale tail above waves