Coral Sex Just Got a Little More Interesting
March 1, 2012
"Once a year, shortly after a full moon, many corals undergo a wild and colorful sex spectacle known as broadcast spawning. During this time, coral colonies spawn like a snowstorm, releasing a blizzard of brightly colored bundles containing eggs and sperm into the open ocean.
Just before that spawning occurs, the coral polyps -- individual organisms that make up coral -- turn pink. Soon after, eggs that range in color from light pink to red are ejected from the polyps, and float upward, like tiny helium balloons, to the water surface, where they bob buoyantly, waiting to get fertilized. But unlike nearly every other animal, these eggs have no protective membrane surrounding them, which means the fertilized embryos are extremely fragile, especially during the first 12 hours of development.
In a study published online Thursday in the journal Science, two Australian scientists have found that when exposed to even small waves, many of these embryos will break into genetically identical pieces, each with the ability to develop into its own larvae. The eggs can clone much like human identical twins."
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