Lab–Grown Corals Come to the Rescue of the Caribbean Reefs

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Caribbean Corals

For the first time, scientists have developed laboratory–bred colonies of a fast depleting Caribbean coral species to their reproductive age, which could help in restoring degraded reefs near the Caribbean shores.

Caribbean shores have lost nearly 80 percent of corals in the last four decades and therefore, repopulating the region has become a management priority. Among them, Elkhorn coral was one of the species whose decline was so fast that it became one of the first coral species to be listed as threatened under the US Endangered Species Act in 2006. In 2008, it was further registered as critically endangered under the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

Therefore in 2011, offspring of Elkhorn coral were reared from gametes and were planted on a reef a year later. Following this, the corals grew to the size of a soccer ball and reproduced with their natural population in September 2015. That was the first time when scientists successfully reared a threatened Caribbean coral species to its reproductive age. Elkhorn corals are very important because they transform into vast shallow underwater forests that protect shores from the storms.

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