Spawning Coral
Spawning Coral

Photograph by Brenden Holland

 

Map of Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary

Location
Roughly 110 miles (177 kilometers) south of the Texas-Louisiana border

Protected Area
56 square miles (145 square kilometers)

Date Designated
January 1992

Habitats
Coral reefs
Algal-sponge communities
Brine seep
Sand flats
Pelagic, or open, ocean
Artificial reef

Key Species
Star coral
Brain coral
Manta ray
Hammerhead shark
Loggerhead sea turtle

Beginning eight nights after the August full moon and for several successive nights, the massive coral reef of the Flower Garden Banks sanctuary, in the Gulf of Mexico, puts on one of nature’s most dazzling displays. As if on cue, spawning corals release clouds of gametes and torrents of what look like pink champagne bubbles and tiny incandescent globes into the clear, warm water.

The reef’s 23 species of coral thrive on twin salt domes that rise from the ocean floor about 110 miles (177 kilometers) due south of the Texas-Louisiana border. Joining them in this sunlit undersea “garden” and diver’s mecca are over 250 multihued species of reef invertebrates and more than 175 species of fish, including manta rays and whale sharks. The fantastical underwater terrain also encompasses ancient drowned coral reefs, natural gas seeps, a salt lake that is fed by a brine seep, and the eerie moonscape formed by the eroded bedrock surface of nearby Stetson Bank, which was incorporated into the sanctuary in 1996.


For more information,
check out NOAA’s Flower Garden Banks profile:
http://www.sanctuaries.nos.noaa.gov/oms/
omsflower/omsflower.html

Address
Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary
216 W. 26th Street
Suite 104
Bryan, TX 77803

Communication
Tel: +1 409 779 2705
Fax: +1 409 779 2334
E-mail: flowergardens@nms.noaa.gov
Sanctuary Web site: http://www.flowergarden.nos.noaa.gov/

 

© 2000 National Geographic Society. All rights reserved.