A limited diversity of character states for reproductive traits and a robust phylogeny make scleractinian corals an ideal model organism with which to explore the evolution of life-history traits. Here, we explore systematic and biogeographical patterns in the reproductive biology of the Scleractinia within the context of a new molecular phylogeny and using reproductive traits from nearly 400 species. Our analyses confirm that coral sexuality is highly conserved, and mode of larval development is relatively plastic. An overabundance of species with autotrophic larvae in the eastern Pacific and Atlantic is most likely the result of increased capacity for long-distance dispersal conferred by vertical transmission of symbiotic zooxanthellae. Spawning records from diverse biogeographical regions indicate that multispecies spawning occurs in all speciose coral assemblages. A new quantitative index of spawning synchrony shows peaks at mid-tropical latitudes in the Indo-Pacific, influenced in part by two spawning seasons in many species on equatorial reefs.