season for coral spawning
LAST week's combination of full moon and warm sea currents proved
to be potent factors, resulting in Singapore waters coming alive
with millions of tiny egg and sperm parcels.
|One of the very few, Mr Guest caught
the coral birth on camera. He gauged when it would occur after
three years of studyign the reefs here. --HOW HWEE
The occasion - the corals' spawning season, an event so rarely
witnessed it has never been documented before.
But this time, two researchers captured on video and in
photographs those magical moments as they occurred in the waters
around Raffles Lighthouse.
The spawning is a good omen for reefs here, said National
University of Singapore doctoral
student James Guest, who documented the event with researcher
Karenne Tun of the Tropical Marine Science Institute.
'There were at least 30 species spawning,' said Mr Guest, who is
doing his PhD thesis on coral reproduction. 'The fact that they're
doing so indicates that the reefs here are still alive and well.
They could even spread if the waters surrounding them are cleaned up
He gauged the time that the spawning would occur after three
years of studying reefs here.
He said it probably happened simultaneously at other reefs here
and around the region, as different species of coral in the same
region tend to spawn at the same time, after months of
The mass event was the coral equivalent of a foam party, and
filled the waters around the island with miniature pink balls of egg
and sperm on three nights last week.
Each tiny parcel which is not eaten by fish and crabs floats to
the water's surface, where it hopefully gets fertilised. If it is, a
microscopic larva forms.
The larva settles days later on a hard surface, like a rock,
metamorphosing into a sedentary coral polyp, which multiplies and
forms a colony. It could take hundreds of years for a colony to grow
to the size of a small car.
Only one in thousands of eggs makes it through this process.
Nearly 100,000 sq km of coral reefs - one-third of the world's
total - can be found in South-east Asia, home to more than 600 of
the world's 800 coral species and the global hub of marine life.
Singapore has about 150 of the species.
Yet coral spawning in the region, which typically happens once a
year when the moon and tides are just right, has been documented
only in the Philippines and Indonesia.
Mr Guest added that since spawning happens so rarely, knowing
when it will happen means that industrial activity, such as
dredging, could be stopped so that the event is not disrupted.
He said: 'Many people are surprised to find out there's coral in
Singapore. Though visibility in the waters here is poorer, coral
life here is as good as parts of Australia's Great Barrier