Orgy on the Reef - Sex Crazed Belizean Coral

Copulating Coral

No! this is not the title of a porn movie, but a rather colorful description of one of the most remarkable underwater occurrences known to man: coral spawning.

Once or in some cases twice a year, on a very erotic evening certain coral species spawn. This spectacular event is described as the harmonious releasing of eggs and sperm by numerous colonies of different coral species. In Australia this event takes place five nights after the November full moon. In the Gulf of Mexico this event takes place on the eighth night after the August full moon.

The Fisheries Department of Belize, Green Reef, Hol Chan Marine Reserve and other interested groups organized diving expeditions to document the event here in Belize. Five days after the August full moon the spectacular affair commenced. Divers visited dive sites around San Pedro Town during August 12th - 16th to get a glimpse of these sex starved species in action. According to Mito Paz of Green Reef, coral spawning has never been documented in Belize before. Sightings of this phenomenon have been reported by tourists and dive masters but environmental and government officials have never had the opportunity to verify its occurrence. Divers from Amigos Del Mar and Ramon's Village Dive Shop said that while diving around 7:00 p.m.on the 13th and 14th they saw the coral spawning. Mr. James Azueta of the Fisheries Department said that his plan was to document, with videos and pictures, the spawning coral, but unfortunately he missed the event. The World Conservation Society also participated in the observation dives out at Glover's Reef. According to Mr. Azueta, the Society group was also unsuccessful in documenting the spawning.

Scientists do not understand exactly how the event is triggered; it is known though, that the spawning is affected by celestial forces at a time when the water temperature is at a peak level. It is theorized that the position of the moon and its effect on the tidal currents is important for successful fertilization as well as later dispersion of the larvae.

Three of the most productive corals are the symmetrical brain corals (Diplora strigosa), the cavernous star corals (Montastrea cavernosa) and the mountainous star corals (Montastrea annularis complex). The great star corals have separate male and female colonies, while the other two species are hermaphrodites, which means they have both male and female sex organs and can self-fertilize and cross-fertilize between colonies.

Before the coral species release their eggs or sperm, many become puffy looking. Star coral polyps withdraw their tentacles, which is unusual since their tentacles are usually seen out at night. Male cavernosa star corals discharge their sperm in gushes that resemble puffs of smoke, while female corals release tiny spherical egg sacs. Brain corals have been noted to expel, from their intricate ridges, lines of eggs. In perfect synchronization tiny sperm and eggs burst free from coral species and start mass fertilization. The water becomes clouded by the tiny eggs and sperm. The eggs and sperm rise from the bottom of the water and form a thick layer on the surface. It is there that fertilization takes place. Planulae are created that swim and drift in the currents and eventually settle to the bottom and fuse to form new colonies of coral. It has been reported that coral spawning triggers other sea creatures to spawn, such as tree tube worms, wrasses and cowfish.

Mr. Azueta said that seven days after the full moon in September, at midnight, more coral spawning will take place. He and other hopeful divers will attempt to catch a glimpse of these kinky little organisms and hopefully document the orgy on the Belize Barrier Reef.

Orgy on the Reef - Sex Crazed Belizean Coral

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