25 April 2014
KUALA LUMPUR – The full moon last week was not only perfect for couples in Malaysia but also provided the trigger for corals to spawn, releasing thousands of eggs and sperm into the water. Throughout Malaysia, divers and snorkelers collected data on coral spawning across various islands to help Reef Check Malaysia understand the nature, timing and even species of spawning.
Reef Check Malaysia, a non-profit organisation dedicated to protecting reefs, reached out to dive operators and the diving community for assistance to collect data. The response was encouraging. For one week, groups around Malaysia organised themselves to monitor the mass coral spawning, an annual event for the many corals that reproduce only once a year.
In Tioman, for example, dive operators, along with the local community and even tourists came together to monitor the spawning. Multiple night snorkels were made throughout the week to gather as much data as possible thereby contributing towards the scientific study of corals.
Spawning also took place in East Malaysia, such as around Pom-Pom Island in Sabah.
“The data not only helps us understand the nature of spawning, but also provides crucial information to help manage coral reefs effectively,” said Mr Alvin Chelliah, Programme Manager of Reef Check Malaysia. “If we know when and where the spawning takes place, we can map out corridors to protect corals during this process, thus helping them to propagate and increase in population.”
Sexual reproduction is important to the recovery and persistence of coral reefs. Most corals are broadcast spawners, releasing eggs and sperm (or collectively known as gametes) into the water for external fertilisation and subsequent larval development. The timing of coral spawning varies according to locations and species.
Spawning is often influenced by environmental factors, such as the full moon, which act as timing cues to allow corals to synchronise reproduction and maximise the chances of cross fertilisation. To-date, very little study has been conducted on coral spawning in Malaysia.
|Millions of eggs released by the corals|
|The eggs created a layer of red slick just below the water surface on Tioman Island||Coral colonies with eggs were cupped to help catch the spawning; eggs with pigments indicate that they are ready to spawn|