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Coral mass spawning predicted by rapid seasonal rise in ocean temperature

Lookup NU author(s): Emeritus Professor Alasdair Edwards, Dr James Guest



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).


Coral spawning times have been linked to multiple environmental factors; however, to what extent these factors act as generalized cues across multiple species and large spatial scales is unknown. We used a unique dataset of coral spawning from 34 reefs in the Indian and Pacific Oceans to test if month of spawning and peak spawning month in assemblages of Acropora spp. can be predicted by sea surface temperature (SST), photosynthetically available radiation, wind speed, current speed, rainfall or sunset time. Contrary to the classic view that high mean SST initiates coral spawning, we found rapid increases in SST to be the best predictor in both cases (month of spawning: R2 = 0.73, peak: R2 = 0.62). Our findings suggest that a rapid increase in SST provides the dominant proximate cue for coral mass spawning over large geographical scales. We hypothesize that coral spawning is ultimately timed to ensure optimal fertilization success.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Keith SA, Maynard JA, Edwards AJ, Guest JR, Bauman AG, VanHooidonk R, Heron SF, Berumen ML, Bouwmeester J, Piromvaragorn S, Rahbek C, Baird AH

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Proceedings of the Royal Society B

Year: 2016

Volume: 283

Issue: 1830

Print publication date: 01/05/2016

Online publication date: 11/05/2016

Acceptance date: 18/04/2016

Date deposited: 13/05/2016

ISSN (print): 0962-8452

ISSN (electronic): 1471-2954

Publisher: The Royal Society Publishing


DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2016.0011

PubMed id: 27170709


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Funder referenceFunder name
Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies
European Research Commission Marie Curie Actions programme
King Abdullah University of Science and Technology
NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program
DNRF96Danish National Research Foundation