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Flower Garden Banks: The Living Sanctuary

An annual, predictable event of coral spawning occurs at the Flower Gardens eight nights after the full moon in August. SSE pilots and PI's will further investigate the spawning click image for more... (photo: Brenden Holland)

The broadcasting coral spawners release their gametes synchronously around the 8th and 10th night after the full moon in August. Shown here, is a star coral, (Montastraea franksi),click image for more... (photo: Emma Hickerson)

Spiny or large flower coral - (Mussa angulosa) - is one of the less common species of coral found at the Flower Gardens, but if click image for more... (photo: Frank and Joyce Burek)

The ridges of the brain coral, (Colpophylia natans), are truly a work of art. If you look carefully you may see the tiny round mouths of theclick image for more... (photo: Frank and Joyce Burek)

Orange cup coral (Tubastraea coccinea) is not found on any of the Sanctuary Banks, but is found on oil platforms in the area. (photo: Frank and Joyce Burek)

Parrotfish are often seen and heard chewing on corals at the Flower Gardens. Here, a star coral, (Montastraea sp.), click image for more... (photo: Frank and Joyce Burek)

As the reef gets deeper, and less light is available, the shape of the corals take on a flattened appearance. They are increasing their surface area in order to maximize the amount of light falling on their tissues which click image for more... (photo: Frank and Joyce Burek)

Elephant ear sponge, (Agelas clathrodes), is a bright species of sponge that is prominent on the reef. At certain times of year click image for more... (photo: Frank and Joyce Burek)

Touch-me-not-sponge (Neofibularia nolitangere) and Y-branched algae (Dictyota sp.)at Stetson Bank. The temperatures at Stetson click image for more... (photo: Frank and Joyce Burek)

Barrel sponge (Xestospongia muta) and Tesselated blenny (Hypsoblennius invemar) on the left, and a seaweed blenny click image for more... (photo: Frank and Joyce Burek)

Black-ball sponge (Ircinia strobilina), great start coral (Montrastraea cavernosa), and symmetrical brain coral, (Diplora strigosa). click image for more... (photo: Frank and Joyce Burek)

Smooth trunkfish juvenile (Lactophyrys triqueter) reminds one of a bumblebee. Photograph by Frank and Joyce Burek

The smooth trunkfish (Lactophrys triqueter) is usually black and white in color, but at the Flower Gardens, Texas A&M University fish click image for more... (photo: Frank and Joyce Burek)

The balloonfish (Diodon holocanthus) is usually a shy little fellow, who retreats to a safe hole in the reef to peak out warily. If they are startled, they inflate click image for more... (photo: Ed Enns)

The spotted drum (Equetus punctatus) is an elusive fish, but is found at all three banks of the Sanctuary. Juveniles are seen swimming in circular motions. (photo: Joyce and Frank Burek)

This spotted scorpionfish (Scorpaena plumieri) is well camouflaged between the fire coral (Millepora alcicornis), barnacles, red click image for more...(photo: Frank and Joyce Burek)

This queen parrotfish (Scarus vetula) is taking a bite out of some coral, while a couple of juvenile bluehead wrasse click image for more... (photo: Frank and Joyce Burek)

Scrawled cowfish (Lactophrys quadricornis) - a member of the boxfish family. Found at all three banks the Sanctuary. (photo: Frank and Joyce Burek)

The goldentail moray (Gymnothorax miliaris) is one of only a few species of eel found at the Flower Gardens and Stetson Bank. click image for more... (photo: Frank and Joyce Burek)

Jackknife fish (Equetus lanceolatus) is uncommon, but diligent searches can find them on all three banks, often under ledges. click image for more... (photo: Frank and Joyce Burek)

Whalesharks are seen every year (but not on every cruise) during the latter part of the summer, beginning at the end of July. They are often click image for more... (photo: Quenton Dokken)

Manta rays, (Manta birostris), may be encountered at the Flower Gardens throughout the year. At least 35 individuals have been identified by Texas A&M University marine ecologist, Jeff Childs. They have identifying markings on their undersides. (photo: Emma Hickerson)

Large juvenile Loggerhead sea turtles, (Caretta caretta), are the most common sea turtle encountered at the click image for more... (photo: FGBNMS)

Atlantic thorny-oyster (Spondylus americanus) are seen filter feeding on all three banks of the Flower Gardens as well as on the underwater structures of the platforms. (photo: Frank and Joyce Burek)

The bearded fireworm (Hermodice carunculata) is not something you want to get personal with - their bristles can easily penetrate and click image for more... (photo: Frank and Joyce Burek)

Christmas tree worms (Spirobranchus giganteus) are abundant throughout the Sanctuary, and in many shades of color. The two "trees" are the click image for more... (photo: Frank and Joyce Burek)

Shell collecting was once a favorite pastime at Stetson Bank before it became part of the Flower Garden Banks NMS in 1996. Shell collecting is now a thing of the past, click image for more... (photo: Frank and Joyce Burek)

The long-spined urchin (Diadema antillarum) experienced a widespread die-off throughout the Caribbean in the early 1980's. No reason click image for more... (photo: Emma Hickerson)

This bar-eyed hermit crab (Dardanus fucosus) was photographed at Stetson Bank by Texas A&M click image for more... (photo: Dr. Mary Wicksten)

Banded coral shrimp (Stenopus hispidus) are sometimes seen cleaning fish at cleaning stations -shrimp and some species of fish clean click image for more... (photo: Emma Hickerson)

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