We're back in Hawaii for the new moon - happening today. Don't be too jealous, its raining and 90 degrees F.
Yes - we were just here for coral spawning - the (often mass) reproductive event when corals release their eggs and sperm. We went home to see our families (and dogs) in between because our target coral species, the rice coral Montipora capitata, only spawns the evenings around the new moon. The biggest days are usually the two to three days right after the new moon, but there are dribbles before and after the peak days. All in all, we can usually collect eggs and sperm for five to six days in June, July and August. For those of you who work with model organisms, that probably sounds crazy. For those of you who have worked with other species of coral, you're probably jealous. Many other coral species only spawn once, some for a few days in a row and some only for a single mass event.
So I headed out last night with a bucket and scooper with high hopes for collecting while watching the Perseid meteor shower. One of the advantages of being up at night for collecting is the star gazing - no moon to brighten the sky. I was very disappointed to look up and see nothing but clouds, but it didn't pour down rain and we did manage to find a steady dribble of what look like little styrofoam balls floating on the surface of the water - coral gamete bundles!
So initial success for day 1 of spawning. Here's hoping that they survived the night. The first 12 hours is the most critical for survival in this species. See the next post for why this time matters so much! (And check back for pictures coming soon.)