“OMG, I think they just spawned on me!”
That was the title of a September blog entry by UB’s Buffalo Undersea Reef Research laboratory (BURR), which sent five UB investigators to the Florida Keys this month to study an underwater mating ritual: coral spawning.
Mary Alice Coffroth, professor of geology, led the research trip. She explains that corals—which are animals—reproduce by releasing bundles of egg and sperm into the surrounding sea. The goal of the visit to Florida was to collect these bundles and raise young coral for use in scientific studies.
Among other topics, Coffroth’s research team examines how an algal symbiont in the genus Symbiodinium facilitates the establishment of coral reefs.
“It is a symbiosis between corals and a single-celled dinoflagellate alga, Symbiodinium, that allows the corals to grow into these massive structures,” Coffroth says. “Most corals acquire their symbionts anew each generation, and my lab is investigating the early ontogeny of this symbiosis.”
The BURR lab’s coral spawning blog , created by BURR member Rachel Mellas, provides an intimate look at the corals’ mating process and at the research team’s daily life in Florida. The scientists carried out their work at the Alligator and Looe Key reefs off the Florida coast, where schools of tropical fish dart through turquoise waters.