Scientific discovery could save endangered Caribbean coral

This is an important discovery made by scientists at the Florida Aquarium. They managed to reproduce the elkhorn coral, the most common in the Caribbean, especially in Guadeloupe. An endangered species.

For the first time, marine biologists have successfully bred elkhorn coral, a species forming coral reefs Caribbean.

This is an important step that could help revitalize the region’s ecosystems.

Additionally, reefs provide a protective barrier during hurricanes by preserving shorelines from crashing waves. They are also a refuge for fish and other species.

Previously, elkhorn, similar to moose antlers, was the most common coral in Caribbean waters. His condition has deteriorated considerably in recent years. Since 2006, it is even a protected species, because it is threatened.

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However, elkhorn coral is an essential species because these corals are the foundation for building reefs. They do not usually thrive in aquariums, hence the joy of the scientists at the Florida Aquarium.

Elkhorn coral has a complex structure with many large branches that form a prime habitat for various reef dwellers such as lobsters or parrot fish. Elkhorn coral colonies grow incredibly fast (5 to 10 cm per year) and can reach a diameter of 3.50 meters. Its color varies from brown to yellowish brown. It is the result of a symbiosis with a zooxanthellae (an algae) that lives within the tissues of this coral. This alga performs photosynthesis and provides nutrients to the coral.

It’s a first step in preventing the extinction of elkhorn coral, said Keri O’Neil, manager of the Tampa lab.

It is the fourteenth species of coral reproduced in this laboratory, but definitely the most important for the team of scientists.

According to Keri O’Neil, several hundred coral larvae hatched from the experiment. She hopes at least 100 will make it to adulthood.

In nature, the birth of coral larvae is a spectacular sight.

To admire a spawning off San Bartolomé, in August:

In two years, the lab-born corals will be seeded on Florida reefs.

We save time… We save time for reefs… We save time for corals.

Keri O’Neil

A vital necessity because in 2019, a UNESCO report indicated that 20% of the planet’s coral reefs were destroyed. No signs of recovery were observed. The study also explained that 24% of the reefs were exposed to a similar threat, linked to human activities, and 26% could present a similar risk in the future.

An alarming finding that already suggested that these marine ecosystems, the most diverse in the world, could disappear before the end of the century.

To preserve these environments, the Florida Aquarium hopes to establish a breeding program for elkhorn corals, which can resist threats such as pollution, warming oceans and disease.

Scientists refuse to be fatalistic and admit defeat. His recent discoveries go in the right direction and could also be a hope for the corals of the Guadalupe archipelago.

There is hope for coral reefs. We must not lose hope. Not everything is lost.

Keri O’neil, Florida Aquarium Laboratory Director

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