Coral spawning in the western Pacific Ocean is related to solar insolation: evidence of multiple spawning events in Palau
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Coral reproductive schedules have long been related to concomitant increases in regional sea surface temperature (SST). Yet, corals also mass spawn in the tropics, where SSTs vary little throughout the year. Here we show that the rise toward and fall from solar insolation maxima, which is the electromagnetic energy incident on the surface of the earth, coincide with coral spawning events in tropical Palau. Two insolation maxima (a consequence of the vernal and autumnal equinoxes) in the tropics lead to multiple spawning events per year. SSTs are poor predictors of coral spawning in the tropics. Multiple spawning events increase the rate of genetic recombination, which in turn may facilitate the likelihood of speciation and explain, in part, the high coral diversity in the tropics. We also show that mass spawning coincides with near-maximum solar insolation (5.0–7.2 kWh/m2/day) events from 33°N to 30°S in the western Pacific Ocean, and should be considered as one of the primary variables driving coral reproductive cycles.