Researchers find male, female pillar corals

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission researchers have documented male and female pillar corals spawning together in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

FWC researcher Kate Lunz says Saturday’s discovery is significant because it was unclear if female pillar corals existed in Florida.

Diving off Key Largo, researchers witnessed male pillar coral colonies releasing clouds of milky sperm, followed by females within minutes discharging eggs.

Unlike other stony corals, which produce both sperm and eggs, pillar corals form separate male and female colonies for reproduction.

Corals in the Keys and around the world typically reproduce in the late summer, within four days after the full moon.

With two full moons in August, Lunz says there is a potential for another coral spawn in early September.

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