By Gage Simpson

Owner of New Frontier News

Friday, August 23, 2019

(NEW FRONTIER NEWS) – Florida Aquarium announced on Wednesday that it has successfully spawned pillar coral two days in a row at its lab facilities, a first for an Atlantic species of coral.

The breakthrough could help save the Florida Reef Tract has already been hard hit by disease, pollution, and the effects of climate change.

“This is not just a scientific breakthrough, this is hope for a species that’s critically endangered in Florida. And this is actually hope for many species along the Florida Reef Tract,” Senior Coral Scientist O’Neil said.

Pillar coral and other stoney coral have been adversely affected by Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease, which has killed off 90% of Elkhorn and Staghorn coral in the Florida Reef Tract. Pillar coral in the Florida Reef Tract is functionally extinct with all male and female clusters to spread out to spawn.

“It’s quite possible that we just had our last wild spawning of pillar coral this year due to the Stoney Coral Tissue Loss Disease,” O’Neill said. “But with the success of this project, as a scientist, I now know that every year for the foreseeable future we can spawn Florida pillar corals in the laboratory and continue our work trying to rebuild the population.”

This is not the first time Florida Aquarium has spawned coral in its lab facilities next to Tampa Electric Co. power plant. In late 2017, coral from the pacific was successfully spawned at the lab.

O’Neil and her team of scientist had to work on creating the right conditions for pillar coral to spawn. Light and water conditions using LED lights and a computer system to mimic natural conditions to trick 30 coral into reproducing.

When the coral spawned 30,000 larvae were released, which were subsequently placed in a greenhouse tank called the “ark”, where the coral will grow for 2 years before being possibly released into the wild.

O’Neil also plans to do the same lab-induced spawning with critically endangered maze coral.

Florida Aquarium and Tampa Electric Company plan to build more greenhouses to help raise more coral.

=References=

Johnson, Lauren M. (August 2019). A scientific breakthrough at the Florida Aquarium could save ‘America’s Great Barrier Reef’. CNN. The United States. https://www.cnn.com/2019/08/21/us/historic-coral-discovery-scn-trnd/index.html

Pittman, Craig. (August 2019). Scientists coax imperiled Florida coral to spawn in a lab for the first time. Tampa Bay Times. The United States. https://www.tampabay.com/news/environment/2019/08/21/scientists-coax-imperiled-florida-coral-to-spawn-in-a-lab-for-the-first-time/

Ruth, Daisy. (August 2019). Florida Aquarium first in history to spawn Atlantic coral species in lab. WFLA. The United States. https://www.wfla.com/news/hillsborough-county/florida-aquarium-to-announce-scientific-breakthrough-that-could-save-corals/

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