Sometimes the most wondrous things in life happen when you least expect them, as we found on a spring break to Maui from our home in Minnesota.
Such was the case when Jayme Perrello, education manager at Maui Ocean Center (808/270-7000), was introducing the concept of coral reef formation to my family, among an interested group of visitors.
Perrello froze mid-sentence when, as if on cue, antler coral in one of the Hawaiian aquarium's living coral exhibits, began to spawn! Her audience, too, stared in awe as Mother Nature revealed another of her miracles before our eyes. For minutes the tiny coral released millions of eggs and sperm into the water in an event rarely witnessed in nature, even by the world's most avid divers and scientists. My kids were thrilled.
Maui Ocean Center's staff has been exploring the life cycles of Hawaii's corals and their significance as an integral part in the ecosystem of the world's tropical oceans for more than two decades.
"There's so much we don't know about coral spawning, and it's a luxury to be able to study the reproductive cycles of the main reef builders, right here at the Aquarium!" said Eric Brown, coral reef researcher with the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology. He seemed stunned by the exciting event.
We learned that some coral colonies have the ability to spawn at the same time from Pauline Fiene-Severns, experienced diver and biologist. "Environmental factors are controlling the event, but how the time of year, phase of the moon, water temperature, and time of day translate into chemicals that control the release of eggs and sperm is not known."
What an amazing day for the kids. Truly unforgettable.
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