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Updated: 06/26/2014 08:00:07AM

Sealife’s strange spawners

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By Betty Staugler

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With the exception of humans, and our spayed and neutered pet friends, survival and passing on genes through reproduction are all encompassing for the remainder of the animal kingdom, the marine environment included. Marine organisms have a fascinating array of reproductive behavior patterns. They can be pelagic spawners, benthic spawners, nest spawners, or bearers of live. They may be guarders, non-guarders, or brood hiders. Further, they may have elaborate courtship or no courtship.

Take a goliath grouper for instance, adults generally show a strong site preference and move very little; however they are known to travel 100 miles or more to reach spawning aggregation sites. Most of the known spawning aggregations are off of southwest Florida, but additional aggregations have been observed off of Florida’s central east coast. Researchers and volunteer dive groups have observed various goliath grouper color changes associated with spawning aggregations such as dark, bi-color, and white/gray color phases. They have also noted behaviors associated with goliath grouper spawning aggregations that include pairing or grouping, stacking, and/or barking/bellowing. Spawning occurs in late summer or early fall on dark nights (new moon particularly) between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. when eggs and sperm are released into the water column (pelagic spawning). Such spawning behavior is likely an adaptation to avoid egg predation.

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