Mass coral spawning attracts visitors from all over the world

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Tourists flocked to the Great Barrier Reef earlier this month to witness the annual spawning of the coral.

Dubbed one of the most spectacular natural events of the year, the spawning encourages divers and snorkelling tourists to come from around the world to northern Queensland to witness it.

Anticipated somewhere from four to six nights after the full moon in November, this year the spawning took place from November 15-17. During the event, over 400 species of coral spew out clouds of tiny egg and sperm bundles in an extraordinary display that becomes a kind of feeding frenzy for marine animals.

Marine Biologist Stuart Ireland said the coral spawning helped the Great Barrier Reef to evolve.

"Coral spawning allows for the potential of cross-breeding and hybridisation, which may help the Great Barrier Reef corals evolve and become stronger," Mr Ireland said.

"By having a mass spawning event, there is a greater chance of successful reproduction and survival from the predators in the water (fish etc), that like to eat the corals' eggs and sperm."

Because there is so much coral spawn not all of it gets eaten and some eggs survive to be fertilised and settle, growing into a new coral colony.

Cairns Dive Adventures that run tours to witness the spawning said: "In the torchlight this looked like cloudy waters surrounding the boulder corals.  We took two night dives and saw some pretty cool critters, including Crayfish, Lionfish, Flatworms and a Wobbegong shark. It was amazing! Thousands of pink coral eggs floating through the warm, night waters – it was like diving in a flute of bubbly champagne."

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