Apr 22, 2022 - News

Scientists successfully breed coral in captivity

Dead coral sit on the ocean bed in the Straits of Florida near Key Largo last year. Photo: Photo: Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images
Dead coral sit on the ocean bed in the Straits of Florida near Key Largo last year. Photo: Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

In the race to save the Great Florida Reef, scientists at the Florida Coral Rescue Center (FCRC) have successfully spawned hundreds of new rough cactus coral offspring β€” believed to be the first documented occurrence of this species propagating in human care.

Why it matters: It's good news for scientists trying to develop a large-scale breeding program to help restore Florida's Coral Reef, which stretches 350 miles from West Palm Beach to the Dry Tortugas.

Background: An affliction called stony coral tissue loss disease, discovered in 2014, has been leaving a trail of destruction across the Florida reef.

What's happening: Scientists with the SeaWorld-managed FCRC collected healthy specimens of threatened coral from outside the disease boundary in 2019 and 2020, hoping they'd reproduce in tanks.

  • Larval release has been happening nightly for the last several weeks as the rough cactus corals fertilize the embryos within the colony then send the larvae swimming.
  • After release from the parent colony, the larvae settle onto hard tiles in their nursery pools, where they attach and begin growing into corals.

What they're saying: "These offspring are very important to the future of this threatened species and to the health of our oceans," Jim Kinsler, facility manager of FCRC and curator of Aquariums and Wild Arctic at SeaWorld, said in a statement.

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