Spring and summer is the time for romance under the sea as well on land. The garibaldi, our state marine fish, is in full swing as I write this. On my dives the past few weekends I observed numerous garibaldi nests being defended vigorously by the fearless males. A female was actually laying eggs in one nest as I videotaped.
Garibaldi start reproducing at about six years. They spawn between March and October, when the local water temperature rises above 59 degrees. The males prepare their nest by removing everything from a rock face but red algae. This makes the nests easier for divers to spot, especially with a light.
The male waits for a female to select him from the other suitors. Once she chooses her mate, she enters the nest area and may lay 15,-90,000 eggs. Usually she lays all her eggs within this male's nest, but the male may receive eggs from several different females in one brood cycle. The male tends the nest by defending it from other garibaldi and potential egg predators. He also swims slowly over the nest wiggling his body and fins to increase water flow and provide more oxygen for the eggs.
The eggs hatch in 2-3 weeks, usually within a few hours of sunset. The larvae are attracted to light, rise towards the surface and begin their lives as plankton, drifting to new locations with the currents. Once the eggs in a brood cycle have hatched, the male is receptive to new females which begin another brood cycle. John Steinbeck said the two main activities under the ocean are eating and breeding... not much different above water.
© 2003 Dr. Bill Bushing. Watch the "Dive Dry with Dr. Bill" underwater videos on Catalina Cable TV channel 49, 10:00 AM and 5:00 PM weekdays.
Image caption: Male garibaldi protecting yellow eggs in
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