You are here: miami boating magazine > watersports news

Sex on the Reef in the Florida Keys
Aug. 28th full moon marks start of annual broadcast

Posted Tuesday, August 21, 2007

e-mail E-mail this page
print Printer-friendly page
FLORIDA KEYS -- Every year, patrons of Florida Keys dive and snorkel shops play a guessing game. Locals and visitors alike try to guess the date and time of the annual coral spawn — sometimes nicknamed "sex on the reef" — on North America's only living coral barrier reef, which parallels the island chain.
  Corals were created with a method of reproduction called "broadcast spawning." The immobile animals send their eggs and sperm into the water in massive quantities. When egg and sperm unite, the resulting larval-stage "planula" swims to the surface to drift in the current and grow. After some time — two days to two months — the planula settles to the bottom where it grows into a polyp. The polyp grows into a coral head by asexual budding that creates new polyps.

Key to the successful creation of the next generation is corals in a given location broadcasting their eggs and sperm cells simultaneously. So the great mystery that has challenged researchers is: “How do brainless, stationary, uncommunicative corals know exactly when to broadcast their spawn?”

Thanks to the pioneering research of Dr. Alina Szmant of the University of North Carolina Wilmington, and ongoing studies by Dr. Margaret Miller of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Fisheries Service, the mystery surrounding the coral spawn gradually is being solved.

Szmant's observations have shown that Caribbean corals usually spawn around the mid to late August full moon.

The generally accepted schedule is for branching corals (e.g., finger, staghorn and elkhorn corals) in the Keys to spawn three to five days after the full moon, about two hours after sunset. Star and boulder corals spawn six to eight days after the August full moon, about three hours after sunset.

Guessing which night and at what time the corals will spawn is not an exact science, but professional researchers and amateur observers usually have a pretty good chance of seeing the action within a five-day span.

This year, the full moon is scheduled for Aug. 28. Therefore, divers and snorkelers visiting the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary should be able to catch a glimpse of one of nature's great mysteries in early September and a number of Keys dive shops offer up special evening excursions for voyeurs of the spectacle many have described as an "upside-down snowstorm."

For more details on Keys accommodations and links to dive shops in the region, examine

e-mail E-mail this page
print Printer-friendly page

Latest articles in Watersports News
Don't Feed the Sharks! Palm Beach County Dive Boat Operators Face Charges: Mar. 25, 2014
Illegally feeding sharks in state waters is punishable by law, as these boat captains found out.
Coast Guard Crews Search for Missing Diver off Key Biscayne: Apr. 8, 2013
VIDEO: The man jumped in the water, missed a lifeline, and drifted away
63-year old woman attempts to swim from Cuba to FL, makes it halfway before quitting: Aug. 9, 2011
Even marks the second attempt for endurance swimmer Diana Nyad
Miami Kiteboarding Masters & Kite Jump Camp: Mar. 10, 2011
April 9 - 13, 2011 at Crandon Park, Key Biscayne, FL
FWC lieutenant paddles 2 miles, rescues missing canoeists: Jun. 28, 2010
Incident stresses the importance of leaving a float plan behind in case of emergency.

Miami Boating News

↑ Grab this Headline Animator

Our Partners:

More Resources:
Homeschool Evaluations
Homeschooling Florida
Homeschooling Girls
Kids Aboard Workshops
Florida Keys Cruising Guide
Farmland for Sale

Marine Directory and Magazine for Miami, South Florida and Beyond
Boating, Fishing, Sailing, Watersports