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Coral Spawning Wows Guests at Maui Ocean Center

July 22, 2018, 9:14 AM HST · Updated July 23, 8:01 AM
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Nadine Nagata, Head Aquarist Pointing Out Coral Spawning in Discovery Pool. Photo by Maui Ocean Center.

Guests at Maui Ocean Center’s recently witnessed a coral spawning event, one of nature’s rarely seen phenomenon. Guests were attendees at the aquarium’s Incredible Corals: Night at the Reef event.

Rice corals in the aquarium’s exhibits released an ascending barrage of gametes (bundles of egg and sperm) into the water column, joining the rest of Hawaii’s rice coral colonies in a spawning event that occurs only once a year.

Rice coral (Montipora capitata) is one of 40 Hawaiian coral species under Maui Ocean Center’s care and typically spawn a few days following the summer new moon phase. The annual Incredible Corals: Night at the Reef event is centered on this predicted date, bringing Hawai‘i’s coral experts, residents, and visitors together for a night dedicated to coral reefs and the animals that call it home.

As day transitioned into a star-lit sky, guests explored the aquarium to learn about corals while observing unique nocturnal animal behavior. Marine naturalists hosted coral stations featuring live microscopic views of corals eating, information on reef etiquette, and a “Build-a-Polyp” hands-on activity for keiki. Keynote speaker Dave Gulko, coral biologist from the State of Hawaii’s DLNR Division of Aquatic Resources, shared his years of expertise in a presentation focused on coral biology and reproduction.

Between coral presentations, fun was had for both kids and kids-at-heart. Renowned vocalist and pianist Louise Lambert lead a Sing-Along Sea Songs activity for children while astronomer Rakhal Kincaid explored the stars with guests using an array of high powered telescopes. The evening ambiance was elevated with live music by Maui’s rising star, Anthony Pfluke.

Maui Ocean Center was joined by special guests including representatives from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Tommy Cutt, Executive Director of the Maui Ocean Center Marine Institute (MOCMI). NOAA deployed a submersible robot into the Discovery Pool to stream live video of coral spawning activity. Tommy Cutt hosted an info booth highlighting MOCMI’s latest developments, internship program, and volunteer opportunities. MOCMI’s mission is to inspire lifelong environmental stewardship and ensure the survival of coral reefs and sea turtles in Hawaii through science-based conservation efforts, education, and outreach.

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