Marine Biology

, Volume 156, Issue 6, pp 1297–1309 | Cite as

Biannual spawning, rapid larval development and evidence of self-seeding for scleractinian corals at an isolated system of reefs

  • James P. GilmourEmail author
  • Luke D. Smith
  • Richard M. Brinkman
Original Paper


Some of the most important demographic parameters underlying the resilience of coral communities are determined by their patterns of reproduction. In this study, a variety of methods were used to investigate the patterns of spawning, larval development and dispersal for scleractinian corals at an isolated reef system off northwestern Australia. Two distinct periods of gamete maturation and multi-specific spawning occurred each year, during Spring and Autumn, in contrast to the single season of mass spawning described on most other reefs around Australia. The subsequent rates of embryogenesis and larval development were among the fastest described for corals, with pre-competency periods of approximately 3 days. Within 3 days of spawning, slicks of spawn and current drifters had dispersed up to 5 km, and up to 10 km after 6 days, while the times taken for drifters to travel between adjacent (>240 km) reef systems were similar to or greater than the upper competency periods of most coral larvae. Thus, under these conditions, the entire reef system, and to some extent the reefs within the system, may largely be self-seeded; rates of immigration from other systems are probably insufficient to rapidly increase the recovery of communities within years of a major disturbance. These results have implications for the management of isolated reef systems, highlighting the need to minimize local stressors and maximize community resilience to the increasing scale of disturbance and habitat fragmentation.


Great Barrier Reef Coral Community Full Moon Reef System Current Drifter 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank M. Rees for assistance in the field, F. McAlister and S. Spagnol for assistance with drifter data and images. Comments by A. Heyward, J. Underwood, P. Doherty and three anonymous reviewers greatly improved the manuscript. The authors acknowledge the financial support of Woodside Energy Limited as operator of the Browse LNG Development Limited in the conduct of this research, which complies with the laws of Australia.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • James P. Gilmour
    • 1
    Email author
  • Luke D. Smith
    • 1
    • 2
  • Richard M. Brinkman
    • 3
  1. 1.Australian Institute of Marine ScienceCrawleyAustralia
  2. 2.Woodside Energy LtdPerthAustralia
  3. 3.Australian Institute of Marine ScienceTownsvilleAustralia

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