coral larvae


Coral reefs and crevices create complex underwater structures. When turbulence is generated by these hard structures, it creates eddies that catch the coral larvae. Because coral larvae are poor swimmer, and are not able to suitable settlement sites on their own, depend on the structures that help shape these eddies, otherwise they are basically lost at sea, with no chance to settle and grow up. 

Nowadays, coral reefs around the globe suffer from repeated environmental disturbances, which are only compounded with climate change. According to coral reef experts, maintaining structural complexity of scales on reefs is vitally important in terms of aiding reef recovery. Relevant management actions include limiting factors that reduce complexity, such as destructive fishing practices, and promoting factors that enhance complexity, as algae-eating fish to the area to prevent algae from growing and smothering corals. 

It’s not just big marine animals that rely on sound – even tiny coral larvae detect and respond to sound beneath the waves. 

Many coral species reproduce by releasing their gametes into the water; the gametes then drift to a new spot where they can build new colonies. Because sound can travel over many kilometers within the ocean, many of these coral larvae use sound to detect suitable places to settle, even from far away. Scientists are still working to understand the mechanism by which these larvae detect sound, and how they use sound in conjunction with other factors to decide where to settle. 

(Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA, taken in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument)


Saving Coral: Coral for the Future

After creating coral larvae from frozen sperm, in Australia, SCBI’s Dr. Mary Hagedorn and her team settled the larvae, allowing them to find a place to begin to set down their skeletons and grow into adult corals. Dr. Hagedorn’s group, along with the folks at the Sea Simulator, will be watching these coral grow for the next year, and hopefully, beyond.

via Smithsonian’s National Zoo.