Mar 25, 2024 - News

Florida Aquarium makes more room for baby corals

A view of coral in a tank from above the water

Photo: Courtesy of The Florida Aquarium

The Florida Aquarium opened a 4,200-square-foot expansion of its Coral Conservation and Research Center in Apollo Beach on Friday.

Why it matters: Corals shelter more than a quarter of ocean animals and are major drivers of multi-billion-dollar fishing and tourism revenue.

  • Increasingly, climate change is threatening their viability.

Threat level: A new survey of Florida Keys' coral reefs shows extensive damage from a long-lasting and severe marine heat wave last year.

Between the lines: Coral may seem easier to keep in tanks than their swimming co-habitants, but it's still a challenge for researchers.

  • Studying what works and what doesn't is key to reacting appropriately in a crisis.

What they're saying: "Our ability to not only protect the corals in our care, but also to spawn them and rear thousands of babies with new and unique genetic combinations, is more important than ever given the threats these animals are facing in the wild," stated Keri O'Neil, The Florida Aquarium's senior scientist and coral conservation program director, in a press release.

The big picture/state of play: This is the Tampa-based aquarium's fifth successful year of spawning at the facility, producing millions of coral babies in the laboratory. Its other recent coral restoration efforts include:

  • Adding more Elkhorn coral to its program before it was lost in the wild last year.
  • Joining the Heat Response Team in the Keys to help temporarily relocate and care for 5,000 corals.

Bottom line: More tanks for researchers = more baby coral = a better chance of survival in our hot tub of an ocean. Keep spawning y'all.

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