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Spawning spree! Billions of baby corals being fertilized in Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is exploding with colour, as the World Heritage-listed natural marvel recovers from life-threatening coral bleaching incidents.

Scientists observed corals fertilising billions of babies by flinging sperm and eggs into the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Cairns, Queensland, on Tuesday night. The spawning period is two or three days long.

Coral bleaching triggered by extremely warm water temperatures in 2016, 2017, and last year wreaked havoc on the network of 2,500 reefs encompassing 3,48,000 square kilometres (1,34,000 square miles). Two-thirds of the coral died as a result of the bleaching. Bleaching is a stress reaction in which overheated corals lose their colour and struggle to survive during heat waves.

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The spawning is being studied by Gareth Phillips, a marine biologist with Reef Teach, a tourist and educational company, as part of a project to assess the reef’s health.

Coral bleaching has devastated 98 per cent of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef since 1998, according to research conducted by James Cook University in Queensland, Australia. Cyclones and outbreaks of crown-of-thorns starfish, which consume coral, may also have caused damage to the reef and both these events became more severe as a result of climate change.


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