On Wednesday, Aug. 21, The Florida Aquarium announced that they discovered a way to spawn Atlantic coral in the husbandry labs in Apollo Beach, FL, spreading a hopeful light on the endangered species’ future.
The average visitor to the Florida Aquarium would regard the organization as a child-magnet and a tourist attraction. Although the Aquarium’s goal is to spread marine awareness to its visitors, there are multiple behind-the-scenes discoveries at work throughout the Aquariums various laboratories.
With specialists from Horniman Museum and Gardens in London making a breakthrough with spawning Pacific Coral in 2017, The Florida Aquarium eagerly arranged a partnership with the team, doubling the possible success to come with spawning Atlantic coral.
Despite the spawning occurring the Saturday before the announcement, on Aug. 17, the process of getting the coral to spawn took Senior Coral Scientist Keri O’Neil, and her team a solid eight months of intensive, controlled management of the coral’s environment.
Though many do not know, coral is an animal, and it requires a habitual lifestyle in order to successfully reproduce within their yearly season. Without the necessary cues, the coral will never release their spawn into the water for fertilization. In the wild reefs across the Atlantic, coral is confused and do not multiply due to unnatural increasing temperatures, and chemical imbalances in the waters.
And now with 80 percent of coral disappearing due to an epidemic of “white band” disease, dubbed so by how the contagious bacteria break the coral down to its white skeleton, it is more crucial than ever to save the coral and protect the reefs.
In order to solve this crisis, O’Neil’s lab team attempted to recreate the same night and day cycles that a wild coral would experience, increasing the coral’s instinct to spawn during a specific season. The experiment was a success, and new coral larvae are now being tended to within the Apollo beach lab.
The scientists at Florida Aquarium have decided to keep the new arriving coral within the safe environment of the labs to ensure they develop properly and potentially help with the coral population of the future. The Aquarium hopes that the coral will soon be able to return to the ocean once conditions are right and diseases dissipated.
This newfound success will allow the team to be able to create thousands of corals. This will help to restore Florida’s reefs, furthering the path to securing one of the world’s greatest sources of undersea life.
Alexandra Gerges // Staff writer