Spawning coral have turned patches of ocean pinkish red around Villingili island on Addu atoll, in photos released by the Shangri-La resort’s Eco Centre.
Manager of the Eco Centre Estelle Davies said the phenomenon was very interesting because the coral were spawning in December according to southern hemisphere patterns.
“The only documented coral spawning in the Maldives is during March and April, which I believe is synchronous with northern hemisphere timing,” Estelle explained. “So even though Addu is part of the Maldives, true to its position, it seems to be following the Southern Hemisphere spawning [patterns].”
Estelle said islanders in the area had described similarly coloured water in previous years, but had been unsure what it was.
“You should have heard some of the rumours – people thought it was red paint, or someone killing fish,” she said. “It certainly smelt of living animal, which of course is what coral is.”
Microscope analysis suggested the coral spawn was only one or two species, she said: “I was expecting far more – there’s over 200 species here. I suspect acropora, porites or montipora as the eggs were less than a mm in diameter.”
Coral was often mistaken for a plant when it was really an animal, Estelle explained, that reproduces both sexually and asexually.
“Some species are hermaphrodites and release an egg already fertilised ” she said.
Estelle said she hoped pilots flying through the area would report any red streaks they saw across the ocean.
“I think pilots are the most likely to see evidence of this happening,” she said.
Anyone who spots a similar occurance in the region can contact the Shangri-La’s Eco Centre at [email protected]