Breakdown in spawning synchrony: A silent threat to coral persistence

Tom Shlesinger*, Yossi Loya

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The impacts of human and natural disturbances on coral reefs are typically quantified through visible damage (e.g., reduced coral coverage as a result of bleaching events), but changes in environmental conditions may also cause damage in less visible ways. Despite the current paradigm, which suggests consistent, highly synchronized spawning events, corals that reproduce by broadcast spawning are particularly vulnerable because their reproductive phenology is governed by environmental cues. Here, we quantify coral spawning intensity during four annual reproductive seasons, alongside laboratory analyses at the polyp, colony, and population levels, and we demonstrate that, compared with historical data, several species from the Red Sea have lost their reproductive synchrony. Ultimately, such a synchrony breakdown reduces the probability of successful fertilization, leading to a dearth of new recruits, which may drive aging populations to extinction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1002-1007
Number of pages6
Issue number6457
StatePublished - 6 Sep 2019


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