Florida sea urchins to the reefs' rescue
In the race to save the Florida Reef, which stretches from the Dry Tortugas to Palm Beach, researchers have successfully reared and released nearly 200 long-spined sea urchins off the coast.
- The Florida Aquarium noted the collaborative project between its Center for Conservation, the University of Florida and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is considered the largest known restocking effort in the last 20 years.
Why it matters: Urchins provide the vital service of scouring over coral surfaces and feeding on the fleshy pollution-caused algae that can kill healthy reefs.
- These long-spined urchins were once abundant in the Caribbean, but we lost nearly the entire population in the 1980s due to an unknown disease.
- Researchers hope that breeding and releasing urchins will help restore reefs that are dying off at an alarming rate.
How it happened: FWC specialists collected adult urchins in the Florida Keys and brought them to the aquarium in Apollo Beach, where they had them spawn and collected 40,000 fertilized eggs for grow-out.
- The eggs were placed into custom containers with a circular flow of water to keep them constantly floating.
- After about 35 days, the urchins were moved into larger tanks and raised for another 6.5 months until they could be relocated to the Keys.
What's next: FWC researchers are monitoring six different experimental research plots to see how the urchins respond.
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