The Florida Aquarium has made history, with its Center for Conservation scientists successfully reproducing ridged cactus coral in human care for the first time ever.
Before researchers began their Project Coral initiative last summer, not much was known about the way ridged cactus coral reproduce. They rescued adult coral colonies from Florida, and began caring for them so they could breed. Earlier this month, the corals began generating spawn, and for the first time ever, researchers were able to photograph and measure the larvae.
Researchers are hoping this new knowledge will help them restore the only reef system in the continental United States, the Florida Reef tract that runs along the Florida Keys. It has been damaged by boats, disease, pollution, and climate change, like reefs all over the world. Scientists say these coral could all become extinct by the end of the century if something isn't done about climate change and overfishing, making this breakthrough even more important. Debborah Luke, the aquarium's senior vice president of conservation, told CBS News on Wednesday that scientists will use their research to "increase the genetic diversity of coral offspring, maximize coral reproduction rates, and advance coral health." Catherine Garcia