Multi-specific synchronous spawning of scleractinian corals on Western Australian reefs was observed fortuitously in 1984. Subsequent studies have documented the phenomenon on tropical and temperate reefs. It occurs mainly around the third quarter of the moon on neap, nocturnal, ebb tides. 102 species are known to spawn during the austral autumn; a further 44 were found to contain ripe gonads during the same period and are presumed to participate in the mass spawning. The mass spawning in Western Australia coincides approximately with the annual intensification of the Leeuwin Current. This raises the possibility of a unidirectional gene flow between regionally distant reefs. Comparison with the spring mass spawnings in the Great Barrier Reef has shown many similarities. Since sea temperature patterns do not seem to account for the differing seasonal occurrence of the phenomenon between coasts, it is postulated that this is the result of an endogenous rhythm reflecting the breeding patterns of ancestral corals as a consequence of selective dispersal of larvae from equatorial regions.
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