Spawning Videos

Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary is known for a spectacular mass coral spawning event every August. But, corals aren't the only creatures we've caught in the act. Following are video highlights of various spawning activities observed in the sanctuary.

2013 Coral Spawning Cruise

(video at top of page)

Every August, sanctuary researchers visit the Flower Garden Banks reefs to observe colonies of star and brain corals put on a fantastic spawning display. It is one of the most abundant coral spawning displays in the entire Caribbean due to the high density cover of broadcast spawning species. During daylight hours, researchers make other observations of reef health to make the most of their time at sea. For more information about this annual event, please visit our Coral Spawning page.

Video Length: 4:53

Credit: FGBNMS/Hickerson


0:00-0:06 Title page - NOAA's Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, Coral Spawning Research Cruise 2013, August 27-29.

0:06-0:17 An upside down Moon Jelly (Aurelia aurita) floating and pulsing along not far below the surface of the water. The light gives the short, hair-like tentacles a reddish glow.

0:17-0:33 Two different views of a male colony of Great Star Coral (Montastraea cavernosa) releasing smoky-looking sperm into the water.

0:33-0:50 A female colony of Great Star Coral (Montastraea cavernosa) release egg bundles into the water. As the bb-like bundles float upward they move and sway with the currents of water around them.

0:50-1:01 A Long-spined Sea Urchin (Diadema antillarum) out on the reef at night with coral spawn floating past it.

1:01-1:11 Boulder Star Coral (Orbicella franksi) slowly releasing gamete bundles (egg and sperm).

1:11-1:34 Several views of brain corals releasing gamete bundles. Many of these are hosts to Christmas Tree Worms, as well.

1:34-1:43 Three Christmas Tree Worms (Spriobranchus giganteus), in a variety of colors, slowly moving with the slight water current around them.

1:43-2:27 Various views of Boulder Star Coral (Orbicella franksi) spawning at night. Some views show gamete bundles floating rapidly upward, while others show the gradual release of gamete bundles that seem to hover just above the coral, gently flowing back and forth, before rising.

2:27-2:38 A Ruby Brittle Star (Ophioderma rubicundum)steals some gamete bundles from a brain coral and makes an escape into a crevice on the reef.

2:38-2:54 Close ups of different brain corals releasing the last of their gamete bundles.

2:54-3:08 A snowstorm of gamete bundles floating over a Mountainous Star Coral (Orbicella faveolata) then some more of the reef.

3:08-3:23 Cruising over reef at night, seeing a variety of corals, sponges, algae and sea urchins.

3:23-3:38 Close-up view of a Banded Coral Shrimp (Stenopus hispidus)out on top of a coral at night, waving it's long white antennae around as it waits for food to come within reach.

3:38-3:46 Belly view of a Manta Ray (Manta birostris) swimming away from the camera.

3:46-3:57 Close-up top view of a Manta Ray (Manta birostris) as it swims by the camera.

3:57-4:28 Various clips of a Manta Ray (Manta birostris) swimming near the surface, swimming under R/V MANTA, and swimming in open water with the reef visible far below. Sunlight reflects off plankton floating in the water all around.

4:28-4:36 A right side up Moon Jelly (Aurelia aurita) pulsing its way through water full of plankton.

4:36-4:53 Scrolling Credits - Funding provided by: National Marine Sanctuary Foundation and Flower Garden Banks NMS. Videography by: Emma L. Hickerson. On board the Mighty Vessel MANTA: Capt. Mike Shetler, Capt. Mike Petry, Tina Thompson, Julia O'Hern, Jeremy Fox. Cruise Participants: G. P. Schmahl (FGBNMS), Marissa Nuttall (FGBNMS), Emma Hickerson (FGBNMS), Misha Matz (Univ. of Texas), Sarah Davies (Univ. of Texas), Marie Strader (Univ. of Texas), Carly Kenkel (Univ. of Texas), Eli Meyer (Oregon State), Sarah Guermond (Oregon State), Tommy Heathman (Texas A&M Galveston).

Brittle Stars Spawning

Brittle stars, relatives of sea stars, have long, thin, serpentine arms attached to a central disc. These flexible arms allow brittle stars to move much more quickly than their cousins, but they are also more brittle (hence their name).

Brittle stars also get in on the mass spawning event after the full moon in August at Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. This video shows male Red Serpent Brittle Stars (Ophioderma squamosissimus) "smoking," or releasing their sperm, into the water through small openings along the sides of their central disks, followed by, a female Ruby Brittle Star (Ophioderma rubicundum) "standing up" on the tips of her arms and releasing tiny, bright red eggs.

Video Length: 1:19

Credit: FGBNMS/Hickerson and Heidi Lydersen

Corals Spawning

During the mass coral spawning event in August each year, star and brain coral colonies of the Flower Garden Banks release thousands of egg and sperm bundles into the water, creating an underwater snowstorm. For more information about this annual event, please visit our Coral Spawning page.

Video description: A male colony of Great Star Coral (Montastraea cavernosa) releasing smoky, white sperm followed by a close-up view of a female colony of Great Star Coral releasing egg bundles. This is followed by star and brain coral species releasing bb-like bundles of both egg and sperm in the following sequence: Mountainous Star Coral (Orbicella faveolata) with a red Serpent Brittle Star (Ophioderma squamosissimus) perched on top; Boulder Star Coral (Orbicella franksi); Boulder Star Coral with a Christmas Tree Worm (Spirobranchus giganteus); Mountainous Star Coral; close-up of a star coral (Orbicella sp.); Blushing Star Coral (Stephanocoenia intersepta); Symmetrical Brain Coral (Pseudodiploria strigosa); a Ruby Brittle Star (Ophioderma rubicundum) snaking its way across a colony of star coral with one arm wrapped around a bunch of egg bundles; egg bundles streaming off various colonies of star corals and rising through the water column; a diver disappearing into the darkness behind a "snowstorm" of egg bundles.

Video Length: 2:02

Credit: FGBNMS/Hickerson, Schmahl

Sponges Spawning

Yes, sponges are really animals and they spawn too. However, unlike corals, they usually spawn during daylight hours, although we're still trying to figure out their exact timing. This video shows first a spawning female then a male colony of the giant barrel sponge (Xestospongia muta) followed by a spawning male colony of the orange elephant ear sponge (Agelas clathrodes). The females look like snow blowers and the males are smokers.

Video Length: 0:32

Credit: FGBNMS/Hickerson

Christmas Tree Worms Spawning
(Spirobranchus giganteus)

In August 2006, sanctuary staff captured the first video of Christmas tree worms spawning. This occurred in the midst of the annual coral spawning event. The Christmas tree worms in this video are located in the middle of a brain coral colony that is also spawning.

Video Length: 0:59

Credit: FGBNMS/Hickerson