Bad timing for coral sex might be an underappreciated threat of climate change.
Spawning is out of sync for at least three widespread coral species in the Red Sea, says Tom Shlesinger, a marine biologist at Tel Aviv University. And warmer seawater temperatures could be playing a role.
Records from the 1980s suggest that whole swaths of corals from particular species typically let colorful egg-sperm bundles float out of their tiny mouths and up into the water on the same few nights a year, Shlesinger says.
But after four years of recent monitoring, Shlesinger argues that three of the five species studied no longer tightly synchronize their species-wide gamete releases. And few if any new colonies of these kinds of corals are showing up in recent surveys, so the species might dwindle away in the region, Shlesinger and Yossi Loya, also at Tel Aviv University, warn in the Sept. 6 Science.
Corals around the world are already threatened by rising temperatures, which can cause corals to severely bleach and die (SN: 1/4/18), among other threats. Various efforts are under way to help rehab and protect these spectacular ecosystems (SN: 10/18/16).
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