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May 2020    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 35, No. 5   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Good News about Saving America’s Reefs

from the May, 2020 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

It may be that scientists could save coral reefs from the brink of extinction. The Florida Aquarium in Tampa has made a breakthrough that might help to save the American Great Barrier Reef, the third-largest barrier reef in the world. They've successfully reproduced ridged cactus coral in human care.

The disease that has been blighting stony corals throughout the region started in 2014. Scientists are now caring for rescued adult coral colonies to breed and reproduce them, in the hope of someday restoring the reefs in the future once the disease has gone.

Before this discovery, very little was known about how ridged cactus coral reproduce -- until scientists at the aquarium successfully reproduced them while catching the "birth" on video.

Cactus corals are a brooding coral, meaning when they reproduce, only the sperm is released into the water; the eggs are fertilized, and the larvae develop within the parent coral. When the time is right, the parent ejects the baby corals, which "swim" to the reef where they stay for the rest of their lives.

So far, over 350 of these babies have been released by the aquarium. About a year ago, scientists at the aquarium were the first to get Atlantic Ocean coral to successfully reproduce. The aquarium is also taking part in "Project Coral" with London's Horniman Museum, a program designed to spawn coral to ultimately repopulate all the world's reefs.

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