MEPS 213:193-202 (2001)  -  doi:10.3354/meps213193

Pattern, synchrony and predictability of spawning of the tropical abalone Haliotis asinina from Heron Reef, Australia

Regina T. Counihan1,2, David C. McNamara1, Duncan C. Souter1,2, Edward J. Jebreen1, Nigel P. Preston2, Craig R. Johnson1, Bernard M. Degnan1,*

1Department of Zoology and Entomology, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland 4072, Australia
2Division of Marine Research, CSIRO, Cleveland, Queensland 4163, Australia
*Corresponding author. E-mail:

ABSTRACT: The spawning biology of the tropical abalone Haliotis asinina on Heron Reef, Australia, was investigated to identify putative environmental and endogenous factors controlling spawning. Spawnings by H. asinina were highly regular and, in comparison to most other haliotids and marine invertebrates, frequent and extremely synchronous. These events appeared to be regulated by more than 1 environmental cue. The spawning season of H. asinina extends from October to April and is associated with an increase in water temperature. During the spawning season, recently captured abalone, housed in flow-through aquaria, released gametes for 2 nights every 2 wk during the new and full moons. However, the exact date of spawning did not correlate precisely with the lunar cycle. Occasionally the spawning events between 2 populations of H. asinina on Heron Reef that were 1.5 km apart differed by 1 d, suggesting that differential tidal regimes might influence the date of spawning. The population that was exposed to slightly longer spring low tides occasionally spawned 1 d earlier. In the aquaria, the onset of male spawnings was earlier than the onset of female spawnings by an average of 31 min. The time of spawning of either sex was highly correlated with the evening high tide; males spawned an average of 19 min prior to the high tide, and females spawned 11 min after the high tide. Spawnings were highly synchronous amongst individuals, with 90% commencing spawning within 89 min of the first individual that spawned. A greater percentage of individuals spawned when in the presence of the opposite sex and the frequency of male ejaculation was greater when in the presence of females. Synchronous spawning patterns persisted for 6 wk in H. asinina maintained in aquaria; after this period, spawnings continued but were irregular and asynchronous. We propose that low tide exposure and time of high tide indirectly regulate the date and time of spawning respectively, and that these tidal elements influence the spawning biology of H. asinina by maintaining endogenous rhythms that persist in non-tidal environments for at least 6 wk.


KEY WORDS: Abalone · Mollusc · Spawning · Synchronous · Tidal cycle · Lunar cycle · Endogenous


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