I said that we were looking for sex on the reef, and that is the truth of it. Just before sunset we would pack up our gear, grab whatever food was left in the fridge, charge up the camera batteries and head out to sea. For ten nights and over twenty hours in the water, we swam up and down the same reef, one group at 20m below the surface, one at 15m, and one at 5m. We searched the complex calcium carbonate conglomerate for evidence of action. We became stalkers of the creepiest variety.
But while we were searching for sex, its not exactly what you might think. We weren't seeking the internal, direct, gonochoric variety often favored by Homo sapiens, no, we were looking for broadcast spawning. Since sessile marine invertebrates can't very easily walk around town to find a partner, they often just bundled up their gametes and toss them out into the water. Kinky, right? Think about what you might be swimming in the next time you go to the beach.
If you are really going to study and organism in depth, at least from a biological point of view, you often need to know something about it's reproduction. So, knowing that many reef organisms time their spawning with the warming of the sea in spring and also with the lunar cycle, we combed the reef for five nights before the full moon and five nights after the full moon in April. And while I was sad that there was no conclusive spongey-business going on, we did see a whole slew of anemone weirdness, quite a bit of sea star and sea urchin sex, and the elusive and impressive coral spawn.
Awesome photo below comes from Remy, aka, chief anemone creeper.
sea urchin spawning!
coral setting right before spawning!!
coral spawning, see the tiny round bundles flying up?