TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – For the second year in a row, The Florida Aquarium was successfully able to make grooved brain coral spawn in a controlled laboratory setting.
The aquarium’s Induced Spawning Lab uses computers and LED illumination to create the proper temperature, simulations of sunset, sunrise and moon cues, to mimic environmental conditions of coral in the wild to induce spawning.
Once the corals have spawned, biologists quickly collect the gametes released (bundles of egg and sperm cells), making note of which corals spawned and when. The cells are gently scooped from the surface of the water.
Aquarium biologists will mix the gametes from multiple corals and allow them to fertilize, creating new genetic diversity in the “baby” corals.
The corals are checked for fertilization and biologists wait for larvae to develop and begin swimming around, looking for a safe spot on a reef to settle and grow.
The larvae corals are given “settlement tiles” that are soaked in coral systems so they “smell” like a healthy reef. This always them to be easily transported, as well as cleaned and monitored after they settle.
The grooved brain coral parents colonies came to the aquarium in 2018 as part of the Florida Coral Rescue Project, managed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission and NOAA Fisheries, to preserve genetic diversity in coral and respond to the ongoing stony coral tissue loss outbreak that has caused coral to die along Florida’s Coral Reef since 2014.
The babies spawned this week will be raised until they are large enough to be planted onto the reef.
Corals were first spawned in the aquarium’s laboratory setting on May 7, 2020. Biologists raised over 1,200 grooved brain coral babies last season.
The project works in partnership with London’s Horniman Museum and Gardens for its coral spawning projects.