Dissection of the Red Sea coral Acropora reveals bright pink spheres surrounded by the coral's white skeleton. These are the coral’s eggs. Each individual Acropora makes both eggs and sperm, sticking them together in a bundle that looks something like a soccer ball. All the Acropora on the reef release their bundles at about the same time. Water motion breaks them apart so the sperm can fertilize eggs from other individuals. The fertilized eggs develop into larvae that soon settle onto the reef to begin their lives as coral polyps in the reef community.
Ann Tarrant, a biologist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), is working with Anne Cohen and Neal Cantin of the WHOI department of geology and geophysics to understand the growth and reproduction of corals in the Red Sea. Their project is part of WHOI’s collaboration with King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia.
(Photo by Ann Tarrant, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)