Akumal’s Coral spawning 2023

Coral Spawning Akumal 2023

Each summer in Akumal, I work with Akumal Dive Center, Coral Conservation Society, and the Coralium Lab of the National Univerisity of Mexico (UNAM) to monitor coral spawning and collect coral gametes. Due to the heatwave temperatures and reports of bleaching around the Caribbean and Mexico, we were cautious about expectations for coral spawning in Akumal. However, some of our colonies were healthy and we observed spawning!

 

Five nights after the final full moon of Summer 2023, volunteer divers successfully collected gamete bundles (sperm and eggs) of the iconic Elkhorn coral Acropora palmata in Akumal. Two teams of divers on two separate boats monitored coral colonies close to the landmarks ‘La Virgen’ (a popular dive site full of dense A. palmata colonies) and ‘El vivero’ (the first coral nursery of Akumal where we used to find historic large colonies of Dendrogyra and Acropora cervicornis). 

While we did not observe a mass spawning event in line with that of previous years, there was spawning at 3 of our colonies and we collected gametes for Coralium’s cryopreservation work.

The dive team was made up of Akumal Dive Center divemasters Javier, Chepo, Alessandro, and Jamar, international visitors Marina Villoch, Dr Grace Klinges, and Prof Martha Rees. Technicians Gabriela and Raul from Coralium, UNAM, travelled to Akumal each evening to support the dive teams. 

While we did not observe a mass spawning event in line with that of previous years, there was spawning at 3 of our colonies and we collected gametes for Coralium’s cryopreservation work.

We went out an extra night but did not find any signs of setting or spawning at either of our sites. So, what happened? Either we missed the main spawning event at the first of the two full moons marking the end of the summer, the corals spawned later at night or on days outside of our 3-6 NAFM window, OR, there was no ‘big spawn’ event this year in Akumal our A. palmata colonies. More observations are needed to continue tracking coral sexual reproduction in the wild. 

Our final day in Akumal was also one of our volunteer’s birthday, which we marked with a trip to a local cenote followed by dinner, tequila and salsa dancing. 

As ever, an enormous thank you to Coral Conservation Society for funding our research and restoration work with coral spawn in Akumal! Thank you to Dra Banaszak and her team at the UNAM for our ongoing collaboration, and thank you Akumal Dive Center, Hotel Akumal Caribe, LolHa restaurant and our dive volunteers who make this work possible. 

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