Only one-eighth of an inch-long piece of life recently gave huge hope to scientists at the Florida Aquarium’s Center for Conservation fighting to find a way to preserve the endangered corals. At the beginning of this year, scientists at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa warn that climate changes might make all coral reef extinct by 2100.
“That first day, we weren’t even sure what we were looking at,” said Keri O’Neil, a senior coral scientist at the aquarium, about the tiny thing released by the unusual coral reefs species they study in the lab, called Ridged cactus corals.
There was no little surprise when the researchers understood that they’ve witnessed a miracle: the first coral birth in captivity. The miracle is not just the novelty but the possible outcome of saving Florida’s endangered coral reefs.
Corals in Florida Show Signs Of Rejuvenation
Since Ridge cactus coral got endangered of extinction because of a disease that is still a mystery to scientists, The Florida Aquarium joined with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service to create lab-based “greenhouses” where they would grow healthy corals.
Ridged cactus corals are hermaphrodites that live in the Florida Reef Tract and the Caribbean, but nowhere else. They are brooding corals that don’t follow the usual course of reproduction by thousands of eggs. They only give birth to a small number of larvae over weeks or months period.
The captive healthy ridged cactus corals have given birth to 340 baby corals since April 12. The plan to return the corals into their natural habitat looks promising. “The whole purpose of this project is to rescue corals and start a land-based breeding program for them so that we can restock the reefs in the future,” said Keri O’Neil.