Reproduction

Knowledge on the reproduction and methods of reproduction of cold-water corals is scarce at this present time (Waller 2005). Brooke and Young (2003) express how the area of reproduction in these ecosystems has been poorly studied. However, gaining this knowledge is important for fully understanding the ecosystems of cold-water corals and functions which go on within them; it is also thought that this information could help with the conservation of said ecosystems and habitats (Freiwald et al. 2004).

The little information gained from studies show that cold-water corals, unlike tropical corals that are hermaphroditic, have separate sexes and that they discharge their gametes into the water column where they are fertilised and settle (Freiwald et al. 2004). It is thought that the only free swimming larvae is that of Oculina varicose or commonly known as Ivory Tree Coral, the larvae has been observed swimming before settling on the substratum (Brooke & Young 2003).

Reproduction in most species of cold-water corals is thought to be seasonal, many terrestrial and shallow water organisms use the change in light and/or temperature as a cue to reproduce (Brooke & Young 2003), however, this is not the case below the photic zone where there is no light and the temperature is usually at a constant. Cold-water corals have to rely on the change in water masses and currents as a single for reproduction, for example in the winter, colder surface waters will become denser and sink quicker as appose to that in the summer (Freiwald et al. 2004). The increased speed or density of the bottom currents could possibly be the main cue for reproduction, on the other hand it could be possible that reproduction is triggered from the change of the chemical properties of water between warmer-colder or colder-warmer seasons. It is also important to remember that each species of coral have a different rate at which they reproduce, resulting in some species forming reefs structures quicker than others. This is also significant with recovering from damage caused by anthropogenic activities, corals that can reproduce quicker should in theory recover and rebuild their reef faster.

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