Lab-Raised Corals Spawn In Florida Keys

Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary has announced that several colonies of laboratory-raised mountainous star coral – a reef-building boulder coral – were observed spawning on a reef south of Big Pine Key. The coral is being observed by researchers from the Keys-based Mote Marine Tropical Research Laboratory, and this is the first spawn ever for lab-raised restored massive corals.

Spawning is part of sexual reproduction where corals will release their gametes (eggs and sperm) into the water column. The gametes move with currents and can settle on the sea floor to eventually create new coral colonies.

Through a microfragmentation-fusion process pioneered by Mote researchers in the Keys, the slow-growing mountainous star corals can have their growth accelerated to reach sexual maturity in just five years.

More than 6,000 species of plants and animals call the Keys home with many living in the coral reefs. The marine ecosystem is suffering as the coral reefs are dying due to global warming. Mountainous star coral, listed as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, helps form the backbone of Florida’s Coral Reef. If the mountainous star coral can be restored it would help repair Florida’s Coral Reef.

Florida Keys is familiar with spawning coral, in 2009 Researchers at the Key Largo-based Coral Restoration Foundation saw their nursery-raised staghorn corals first spawn.

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