Florida Aquarium reproduces ridge cactus coral under human care in world first

Florida Aquarium has become the first the world to reproduce ridged cactus coral in human care, thanks to a team of scientists.

Florida Aquarium is pleased to announce that its scientists have managed to reproduce ridged cactus coral, or Mycetophyllia lamarckiana, for the first time in human care. The work is taking place at The Florida Aquarium’s Center for Conservation in Apollo Beach, part of the Florida Conservation Technology Center.

This project is part of a collaboration between the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service, who are working to protect the endangered Florida Reef Tract.

Hope for coral

“Our resolve to save Florida’s endangered coral reefs continues, and this historic breakthrough by our coral experts, our second in 8 months, provides additional hope for the future of all coral reefs in our backyard and around the globe,” says Roger Germann, President and CEO of The Florida Aquarium.

“While our Aquarium remains temporarily closed to the public as we support our community’s wellbeing efforts, not even a global pandemic can slow us down when it comes to protecting and restoring America’s ‘great’ barrier reef.”

florida aquarium ridged cactus coral spawning

“These advances give us hope that the round-the-clock work we are doing will make a difference to help conserve this species and save these animals from extinction,” says The Florida Aquarium Senior Coral Scientist Keri O’Neil.

“To date, we have now been able to sexually reproduce eight different species of coral affected by Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease at The Florida Aquarium’s Center for Conservation campus.”

Another first

This is the second breakthrough for the Aquarium’s scientists. In 2019, the team also successfully spawned Atlantic Ocean coral in a controlled lab environment.

“The Florida Aquarium is committed to caring for Threatened species of coral and leading critical initiatives that facilitate our ability to restore the Florida Reef Tract,” says the Aquarium’s Senior Vice President of Conservation, Dr Debborah Luke.

“Our Coral Conservation Program uses a science-based, impact-driven approach to increase the genetic diversity of coral offspring, maximize coral reproduction rates and advance coral health.”

Talking about the success of this latest project, German says: “We certainly could not have achieved these groundbreaking efforts without our partners, including the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Great Lakes Dredge and Dock and TECO Energy.

“Without their coordination, involvement and most importantly, financial investments, the Florida Reef Tract might not survive.”

Research activities took place within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and under permit.

As part of its 25th anniversary, the aquarium will undergo 14 months of infrastructure expansion and exhibit enhancement, in order to grow its collection and expand its conservation and education projects.