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Nature: Summer Lovin’ in Waikiki

Romance is in the air—well, in the fish tanks, at this annual event.


Tiny bubbles in the brine ... are actually ferrying the eggs and sperm of coral. photo: courtesy of Bruce Carlson, Waikiki Aquarium

Dancing With the Stars reruns might grab attention inside this summer. But it’s the courtship dances of marine life that will draw viewers to the Waikiki Aquarium. The aquarium’s annual coral– spawning event has grown from the observations of a few local experts and marine scientists to a full-blown celebration for all of the marine creatures who’ve fallen under the spell of the new June moon. While waiting for the main event (at a time only the corals know for sure), the aquarium will celebrate the new generation and a variety of marine–life courtship in its “Summer Lovin’” tour.

You’ll see a male scalefin athnias fish, who may be holding the attention of an admiring harem of females with his subtle dance. Should the poor guy expire in the process, no problem: One of the females will just turn into a male over the course of about two weeks, and take over for him. A stop at the mouth-brooding cardinalfish exhibits offers a look at the ultimate compromise in childbearing responsibilities: After the female lays the eggs, the male promptly fertilizes them. Then, with an “I’ll handle this” sense of responsibility, he scoops the fertilized eggs into his mouth and incubates them—opening his mouth later to let the juveniles swim out when they hatch.

But the corals are the main attraction. When the time is right—just after a new moon in June or July—tiny “bubbles” carrying both egg and sperm will be seen floating upward to the water’s surface. As sperm break free, they find and pair with eggs of other corals within the species, and the next generation begins.

To toast the marine life with sparkling cider, and learn about all the summer lovin’ in the waters around Hawai‘i, plan on a date with the marine life on Monday, June 26 from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. ($12 members; $16 for non-members. Note: The event is for ages 14 and up.) Waikiki Aquarium, 2777 Kalakaua Ave. 440-9007.

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Honolulu Magazine February 2018
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