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Laboratory-bred Corals Reproduce in the Wild

Laboratory-bred Corals Reproduce in the Wild

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New hope for endangered corals: SECORE-scientists take an important step towards sustainable restoration of Caribbean reefs.

Reef site with school of surgeon fish and elkhorn coral (Acropora palamata) stand in the background at Curaçao.

Reef site with school of surgeon fish and elkhorn coral (Acropora palamata) stand in the background at Curaçao.

Researchers of SECORE International (USA, Germany), the University of Amsterdam (Netherlands) and the Carmabi Marine Research Station (Curaçao) have for the first time successfully raised laboratory-bred colonies of a threatened Caribbean coral species to sexual maturity.

“In 2011, offspring of the critically endangered elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata) were reared from gametes collected in the field and were outplanted to a reef one year later”, explains Valérie Chamberland, coral reef ecologist working for SECORE and Carmabi.

“In four years, these branching corals have grown to a size of a soccer ball and reproduced, simultaneously with their natural population, in September 2015. This event marks the first ever successful rearing of a threatened Caribbean coral species to its reproductive age.” These findings have been published in the latest issue of the scientific journal Bulletin of Marine Science.

Due to its large size and branching shape, elkhorn corals created vast forests in shallow reef waters that protect shores from incoming storms and provide a critical habitat for a myriad of other reef organisms, including ecologically and economically important fish species. An estimated 80% of all Caribbean corals have disappeared over the last four decades and repopulating degraded reefs has since become a management priority throughout the Caribbean region.

The elkhorn coral was one of the species whose decline was so severe that it was one of the first coral species to be listed as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species act in 2006, and as critically endangered under the IUCN Red List of Threatened species in 2008. Consequently, measures to aid Caribbean reef recovery often focus on the elkhorn coral given its major decline and its ecological importance.

Read the complete report.

(Source: SECORE news release.)

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