Coral reproduction in the world’s warmest reefs: southern Persian Gulf (Dubai, United Arab Emirates)
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Despite extensive research on coral reproduction from numerous geographic locations, there remains limited knowledge within the Persian Gulf. Given that corals in the Persian Gulf exist in one of the most stressful environments for reef corals, with annual variations in sea surface temperature (SST) of 12°C and maximum summer mean SSTs of 36°C, understanding coral reproductive biology in the Gulf may provide clues as to how corals may cope with global warming. In this study, we examined six locally common coral species on two shallow reef sites in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE), in 2008 and 2009 to investigate the patterns of reproduction, in particular the timing and synchrony of spawning. In total, 71% colonies in April 2008 and 63% colonies in April 2009 contained mature oocytes. However, the presence of mature gametes in May indicated that spawning was potentially split between April and May in all species. These results demonstrate that coral reproduction patterns within this region are highly seasonal and that multi-species spawning synchrony is highly probable. Acropora downingi, Cyphastrea microphthalma and Platygyra daedalea were all hermaphroditic broadcast spawners with a single annual gametogenic cycle. Furthermore, fecundity and mature oocyte sizes were comparable to those in other regions. We conclude that the reproductive biology of corals in the southern Persian Gulf is similar to other regions, indicating that these species have adapted to the extreme environmental conditions in the southern Persian Gulf.