Every year in the late summer, the dive and tourism industries in the Florida Keys encourage people to come to the island chain and watch the reproductive act first-hand — on the reef.
Coral spawning takes place during the full moons of late summer, when stony corals simultaneously release eggs and sperm into the water. They release all at once so the gametes can find each other, the eggs get fertilized — and the volume overwhelms predators out to gobble them up.
Fertilized eggs become larvae (or planulae, in coral-speak) that float in the ocean. Eventually, some of them settle onto the seafloor and establish new coral colonies.
Scientists are still figuring out how all those corals, which are known for beauty but not brains, coordinate the mass spawning events.
The spawning events for 2017 have been predicted for Monday, Aug. 7, and Sept. 6.